Robert Graves

King Jesus
Count Belisarius
Homer's Daughter

Farrar, Straus & Giroux 1946, Penguin 1954 [1938], Cassell 1955
A book review by Danny Yee © 1995 http://dannyreviews.com/
I, Claudius was a popular success when turned into a television series, but Graves' other historical novels seem to have been largely forgotten. With some of them reasons for this are not hard to find, but with others it is quite surprising. Count Belisarius is perhaps the most obvious case. As a straightforward narrative "biography" of a great military leader, with lots of dramatic events and interesting characters, I would probably have picked it ahead of I, Claudius as a candidate for popular acclaim. But perhaps 6th century Byzantium is too unfamiliar a period.

One really needs to have read Homer's Odyssey to appreciate Homer's Daughter, which must somewhat reduce its mass appeal today. The basic premise is taken from Samuel Butler's theory that a Sicilian princess wrote the Odyssey; here she interpolates some material of her own into the works of "Homer", notably the story of Nausicaa and the slaying of the suitors. It's an odd idea, but really pretty mundane by Graves' standards!

King Jesus is a narrative account of the life of Jesus. While it takes the form of a novel, it is really just an excuse for Graves to indulge in mythological musings, from brief asides to extended expository passages. He has some truly wonky ideas about mythology, as those familiar with The Greek Myths and The White Goddess will know, and his first century Judaea is not exactly traditional. Among other things, he has Jesus as the son of Antipater, son of Herod, and thus literally "king of the Jews"! I enjoyed King Jesus, but I didn't take it at all seriously.

November 1995

External links:
King Jesus
- buy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
Count Belisarius
- buy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
Homer's Daughter
- buy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
Related reviews:
- books by Robert Graves
- books about Christianity + Christian history
- books about Greece + Greek history
- books about Rome + Roman history
- more historical fiction
- books published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux
%T King Jesus
%A Graves, Robert
%I Farrar, Straus & Giroux
%D 1946
%O hardcover
%G ISBN 0374516642
%P vi,424pp

%T Count Belisarius
%A Graves, Robert
%I Penguin
%D 1954 [1938]
%O paperback
%G ISBN 0140010254
%P 426pp

%T Homer's Daughter
%A Graves, Robert
%I Cassell
%D 1955
%O hardcover
%G ISBN 0304292516
%P xvii,204pp