When I Was Boudicca

Written by Joann Smith
Review by Mary O'Donnell

“Nothing I do to Rome mitigates what they have done to us” – so thinks famed Iceni warrior queen Boudicca in Joann Smith’s lean, gripping debut novel I Was Boudicca, which follows Boudicca’s famous story from her youth, through the atrocities that originally sparked her personal rebellion against her Roman colonial overseers in Britain, to the explosion of that rebellion into something far greater than she or her councillors had foreseen.

In Smith’s pages, Boudicca narrates events in a quick, almost telegraphic present-tense, which lends an immediacy to her account of her life among her father’s people, her brutaliztion (and the brutalization of her daughters) at the hands of the Romans. The cobbled-together uprising she led against the forces of the Roman general Paulinus,  the balance struck between larger-scale action and the bristly interpersonal relationships between Boudicca and her own advisors is very well-done.

This story has been told many times in many novels but the author has crafted a very good addition to that number. Recommended.