Thursday, March 18, 2021

Top ten matriarchs in fiction

A. K. Blakemore is the author of two full-length collections of poetry: Humbert Summer (2015) and Fondue (2018), which was awarded the 2019 Ledbury Forte Prize for Best Second Collection. She has also translated the work of Sichuanese poet Yu Yoyo (My Tenantless Body, Poetry Translation Centre, 2019). Her poetry and prose writing has been widely published and anthologized, appearing in the The London Review of Books, Poetry, Poetry Review and The White Review, among others.

Blakemore's new book is The Manningtree Witches.

At the Guardian she tagged ten favorite matriarchs in fiction, including:
Livia Drusilla in I, Claudius by Robert Graves

The sort of woman for whom the word matriarch was coined, Livia Drusilla was wife to Augustus Caesar, mother to Tiberius, grandmother of Claudius, great-grandmother of Caligula and great-great grandmother of Nero. In I, Claudius, she is depicted as the red right hand of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Working within the proscriptions of “virtuous” Roman womanhood, Livia plays her family members off against each other, and does far worse to anyone inhibiting their collective advancement. Despite the title, I, Claudius is a fascinating portrait of a mother whose delicately exerted influence changed the course of history. As Claudius himself puts it: “Augustus ruled the world, but Livia ruled Augustus.” Cersei Lannister could never.
Read about another entry on the list.

I, Claudius also appears on Isaac Mizrahi's ten favorite books list, Tessa Arlen’s top five list of historical novels, Christopher Wilson's top ten list of books about tyrants, Sarah Dunant's six favorite books list, Daniel Godfrey's top five list of books about ancient Rome, Jeff Somers's lists of eight books that make great party themes and six historical fiction novels that are almost fantasy, Tracy-Ann Oberman's six best books list, the Telegraph's lists of the 21 greatest television adaptations of novels and the twenty best British and Irish novels of all time, Daisy Goodwin's list of six favorite historical fiction books, a list of the eleven best political books of all time, David Chase's six favorite books list, Andrew Miller's top ten list of historical novels, Mark Malloch-Brown's list of his six favorite novels of empire, Annabel Lyon's top ten list of books on the ancient world, Lindsey Davis' top ten list of Roman books, and John Mullan's lists of ten of the best emperors in literature and ten of the best poisonings in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue