The classical world often seems populated with static figures from such a distant past that they are almost un-human. I, Claudius brings this period of history to life, developing characters that are rich, complex and real. To somebody like me, with a limited understanding of classical history (and that understanding gleaned from historical novels), this almost reads like a murder mystery. The various assassinations and ascensions were completely new to me, which made it even more gripping.
Perhaps it would be less enjoyable, or a different kind of enjoyable, for somebody able to recognise the artistic liberties taken by Graves. Though surely that is the nature of any kind of interpretation of the figures of ancient Rome.
This is the kind of book that I think about when people talk about the value of reading, and the way that it allows (or forces) people to empathise and view things from different perspectives. It's not eye opening as much as challenging, and enlightening.
This is definitely the best book that I've read this year, and I'm already worried about what I'm going to do when I finish its 'sequel', Claudius the God.