I, Claudia: A Novel of the Ancient World
I, Claudia is the story of Claudia Procula and her husband, the infamous Lucius Pontius Pilate. For Claudia, Lucius is her one true love, although as an oracle, Claudia knows early on of his ill fate.
This novel appears to be well researched, but it never gelled for me. Over a third of the book passes before Claudia and Lucius, who alternate as narrators, meet. This isn’t much of a problem in Lucius’s case, since we learn about his early career, but young Claudia’s time is taken up with a back story that could have been heavily condensed.
Once the pair marry, Wilder seldom shows them together. Not only does this make it difficult for us to believe in their mutual love, it has other unfortunate effects. Late in the narrative, we learn that Claudia has had several miscarriages; the novel would have been stronger if we had been allowed to see the couple face these losses together instead of having them separately recall them. Although Claudia’s powers cause her to engage in odd behavior, such as taking thirteen-hour swims, Lucius never seems to notice anything unusual about his wife. Strangest of all, the New Testament episode where Claudia warns her husband that he should have “nothing to do with that just man”—Jesus—is absent from the narrative. Wilder may have had reasons for omitting it, but it seems more that having determined to keep her characters at an artificial distance from each other, she was left with no way to include such a scene.
I, Claudia, is clearly a labor of love. Reading the back matter, where Wilder discusses her affinity for her characters, I couldn’t help but think that her research might be served better through her writing a historiography of Pilate and his elusive wife.