Thursday, March 28, 2013

Review: Pilate's Wife by Antoinette May

Title: Pilate's Wife
Author: Antoinette May
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Harper Collins
Published: 2007
Pages: 400

Rating: 7 out of 10

Claudia, a young woman from a wealthy family in Ancient Rome, grows up amidst the swirling politics of the Emperor Tiberius, to whom she is distantly related. From a young age, she possesses a second sight, in which she sees and dreams of things that have not yet happened - sometimes tiny inconsequential details, other times things that will have a profound impact on her life, the lives of others, and on history itself. She is eventually married to a handsome man named Pontius Pilate, with whom she shares a complex relationship of separation and closeness. Eventually, she befriends a courtesan named Mary Magdalene, who has fallen in love with a radical Jewish man.

I enjoyed this vivid book very much, and Claudia was a heroine and narrator that I grew to love. Her visions were interesting, though never taking up too much of the story to let it begin veering into the historical fantasy genre.

I love Ancient Rome, and this book gives the reader a wonderful feeling for the time period and the setting. Claudia's father is in the ever-traveling army, and after she marries Pilate, the couple move around quite a bit, so we get to see not only Rome itself but a great deal of the vast Roman Empire.

The integration of the biblical story of Jesus was an interesting one, and a curious (if not new) twist on the subject. Mary Magdalene actually had a character, unlike some other books I have read where she is nothing but a hollow "that woman from the Bible" shell. Jesus, who is here called Yeshua, was not mentioned all that much, but he and Mary and apparently in love, and engaged to be married.
At times, I felt that the whole Jesus side of the plot was a bit out of place. After all, it only becomes part of the story much later in the book, and the weight that May seems to want to write into it didn't entirely come through for me, as if the author was trying to introduce a brand new, but extremely significant, plot line right at the end of the book.
Claudia sees visions about Yeshua being a king, and being holy, but the author avoids depicting him as God or a human man, rather letting the reader interpret for themselves whatever they wish.

Claudia's relationship with Holtan, a gladiator whom she prophesied about as a younger girl, annoyed me. I could feel no sympathy for the couple, rather siding with Pilate, and wishing that Claudia would only try to work on her bond with her husband instead.

Overall, this was a very good book, especially in the beginning. Toward the end, what with the Mary Magdalene / Yeshua story abruptly being shoved forward, and Holtan, I cannot say that I enjoyed it quite so much as the first half, but this is still a book I would recommend.