Pilate's Wife: A Novel of the Roman Empire

( 26 )


A daughter of privilege in the most powerful empire the world has ever known, Claudia has a unique and disturbing "gift": her dreams have an uncanny way of coming true. As a rebellious child seated beside the tyrannical Roman Emperor Tiberius, she first spies the powerful gladiator who will ultimately be her one true passion. Yet it is the ambitious magistrate Pontius Pilate who intrigues the impressionable young woman she becomes, and Claudia finds her way into his arms by means of a mysterious ancient magic. ...

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Pilate's Wife

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A daughter of privilege in the most powerful empire the world has ever known, Claudia has a unique and disturbing "gift": her dreams have an uncanny way of coming true. As a rebellious child seated beside the tyrannical Roman Emperor Tiberius, she first spies the powerful gladiator who will ultimately be her one true passion. Yet it is the ambitious magistrate Pontius Pilate who intrigues the impressionable young woman she becomes, and Claudia finds her way into his arms by means of a mysterious ancient magic. Pilate is her grand destiny, leading her to Judaea and plunging her into a seething cauldron of open rebellion. But following her friend Miriam of Magdala's confession of her ecstatic love for a charismatic religious radical, Claudia begins to experience terrifying visions—horrific premonitions of war, injustice, untold devastation and damnation . . . and the crucifixion of a divine martyr whom she must do everything in her power to save.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Biographer and journalist May (Adventures of a Psychic) turns to fiction to offer a privileged woman's view of religion, spirituality, sex and marriage in the time of Christ. May imagines 14-year-old Claudia Procula living with loving parents and holding a secret devotion to the goddess Isis and a gift for seeing the future. Six years later, Claudia marries the handsome and ambitious Pontius Pilate just before her family falls from imperial favor. While Pilate busies himself with affairs of state (and those of the extramarital variety), Claudia chats with her Jewish slave Rachel, visits her gladiator lover Holtan, tangles with the conniving Empress Livia, dines at Herod's palace and attends Jesus' wedding. Though blessed with the ability to see the future, Claudia never manages to prevent the tragedies she foresees. May is at her best when unencumbered by literary or historical precedent; Claudia's sister, the unwilling Vestal Virgin Marcella, for example, is better realized than the shallowly rendered Caligula, and descriptions of Antioch and Caesarea are more compelling than those of well-known locations like Pompeii. (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The only surviving historical record of the wife of Pontius Pilate is a very brief reference in the Gospel of Matthew, which states that she sent word to Pilate during Jesus's trial imploring him to have nothing to do with the Galilean, as she had been troubled by dreams of him. From this meager bit of information, May (coauthor, Adventures of a Psychic) has written the story of Claudia, born to one of Rome's first families, follower of the goddess Isis, young wife of Pilate, and seer and visionary in her own right. From an early age, Claudia is blessed or cursed with the ability to see the future. Sadly, like Cassandra of Troy, this capacity does not come with the power to change the tragic events she sees unfolding for herself, her family, and her world. Depicting an extraordinary woman living in a turbulent and pivotal moment in time, May's fiction debut is a fresh and vivid retelling of a well-known story comparable in scope to Anita Diamant's The Red Tent and Elizabeth Cunningham's The Passion of Mary Magdalene. One hopes this is the first of many novels by this excellent author. Recommended for public libraries, particularly where there is an interest in historical fiction, Christian fiction, or early church history. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/06.] Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage Municipal Libs., AK Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Fiction debut from May (Passionate Pilgrim, 1993, etc.) makes an unlikely romantic heroine of Claudia, wife of the Roman magistrate who presided over the crucifixion. By the reign of Tiberius, the Roman Empire was a widespread, multicultural bureaucracy, and it's in this rich world that May sets her story. Claudia, a Roman patrician who is gifted with prophetic dreams, lives her early years in the provinces, from Gaul to Syria, as her father serves as second-in-command in her uncle Germanicus's army. In Egypt, while still a young girl, she falls under the thrall of the cult of Isis. The Egyptian goddess, who in May's vision espouses a kind of proto-feminist, free-thinking philosophy, becomes the driving force in Claudia's life. Before long, May has her young heroine using Isis's potent magic to snare the young centurion, Pontius Pilate. Through her Isis worship, she also meets a beautiful Galilean courtesan, Miriam of Magdala, for whom Claudia has visions of a great, though tragic, love. But neither the goddess's spells nor her own psychic powers can save Claudia from heartache when she falls for a handsome gladiator and runs afoul of Tiberius's domineering mother, Livia. As Claudia comes to understand the larger tragedy of the crucifixion, she tries to warn Pilate away from his role, to no avail. May's background in psychic phenomenon and biography make her heroine sympathetic, despite the tendency to gush over gowns and men. Her great dramatic climax, however, cannot help but be overwrought, as Jesus returns with a New Age inspiration "of love and hope, a joyous knowing that we were as one in this moment." May salvages her story by going one step further, back into her original humanstory, where she grants Claudia and Pilate reconciliation. Suffers from an unlikely, sweetly sentimental conclusion, but May's vivid settings, founded in research, make this quick read of a romantic adventure enjoyable. Agent: Irene Webb/Irene Webb Literay
USA Today
“Readers...who thrilled to... Russell Crowe’s Gladiator will give Pilate’s Wife the thumbs-up.”
Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)
Claudia’s life is shaped by passion, violence and intrigue, and May paints it well.
The Cairns Sun
A great and insightful drama of one woman’s love life.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641947162
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/9/2007
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Antoinette May is the author of Pilate's Wife and coauthor of the New York Times bestseller Adventures of a Psychic. An award-winning travel writer specializing in Mexico, May divides her time between Palo Alto and a home in the Sierra foothills.

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Read an Excerpt

Pilate's Wife

A Novel of the Roman Empire
By Antoinette May

William Morrow

Copyright © 2006 Antoinette May
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-06-112865-1

Chapter One

My "Gift"

It wasn't easy having two mothers. Selene, who'd given me life, was small, dark, feminine as a fan. The other, her tall, tawny lion of a cousin, Agrippina, was granddaughter of the Divine Augustus.

My father was second in command under Agrippina's husband, Germanicus, commander in chief of the Rhine armies and rightful heir to the Empire. Growing up in one army camp after another, my sister, Marcella, and I were often in Agrippina's home, treated as her own. She favored her sons, but their time was given over to trainers who drilled them daily in the use of sword and spear, shield and ax. We girls remained clay for her to mold.

When I was ten, the ceaseless chatter of the older girls bored me. "Which officer is handsomest?" "What stola the most alluring?" Who cared! I was reading Sappho when Agrippina swept the scroll from my hand. Studying my face in the morning light, she admired my profile. "Your nose is pure patrician, but that hair!"

Agrippina grabbed a gold comb from the table, swept my hair this way and that. Then, as I sat rigid under her restraining hand, she began to cut. Slaves scurried to brush away the thick unruly curls fallen to the floor. "Ah, this is much better. Hold the mirror up higher," she instructed Marcella. "Let her see the back, the sides."

Agrippina was always full ofideas, so sure she knew best. I glanced at Marcella, who nodded her approval. The wild hair had been tamed-thinned, pulled back, and bound by a fillet so that my curls cascaded like a waterfall.

Agrippina scrutinized me carefully. "You're really quite pretty-not a beauty like Marcella here, but who knows." She glanced again at my sister. "You're a rose-no doubt about it-but Claudia ... let me think. Who is Claudia?" She reached into drawers, pulling out scarves and ribbons, selecting only to discard. At last, "Of course! Why didn't I see it sooner? You're our little seer, shy, ethereal-pure purple! This is your color; wear it always."

Wear it always! Agrippina was so imperious. Her enthusiasm overwhelmed me. It infuriated Mother. "Those were your baby curls!" she stormed angrily when I came home laden with purple tunics, flowers, scarves, and ribbons. And so it went between them, with me always in the middle.

Still, to this day, I favor purple and take pride in my profile.

People who felt entitled, even obligated, to impose their wills on me were everywhere. Tata and Mother, of course, but also Germanicus and Agrippina-I called them aunt and uncle. My sister, Marcella, two years older, expected to dominate me, as did our rich cousins, Julia and Druscilla, and their brothers, Drusus, Nero, and Caligula. Caligula missed no opportunity to tease and embarrass me. He liked to put his tongue in my ear and only laughed when I smacked him. Small wonder I coveted my own company.

Perhaps it was from these quiet times that the sight came. At an early age, I often knew of a visitor's approach before a slave announced the arrival. It happened so naturally that I wondered why others were surprised or even suspicious, imagining that I played a joke. Because the knowledge was trivial and rarely benefited me, I thought little of it.

My dreams were different. They began when we were stationed in Monokos, a small town on the southwest coast of Gaul. For a time it seemed that I could scarcely close my eyes without a vision of some sort overtaking me. They were fragmented dreams. I remembered little and understood less, yet awakened always with a chilling sense of impending danger. The frequency and intensity of these nighttime visions increased; I feared to sleep, forced myself to lie awake late into the night. Then, in my tenth year, I had a dream so vividly terrifying that I have never forgotten it or the events that followed.

I saw myself in a wooded wilderness, a fearful place, thick, dark, almost black. Wet leaves scraped across my face as I breathed the damp smell of decay, shivering miserably in the cold. I struggled to free myself but could not; the dream held me prisoner in its thrall. All about me strange and fearful men chanted words I could not understand. As they crowded forward, surrounding me, I saw that they were dressed as legionnaires, but unlike the soldiers in our garrison, their faces were hardened by anger and bitterness. A huge, fearsome man with pockmarked skin came forward, a young wolf trotting companionably at his heels. This awful person urged the others to violence. Answering cries echoed through the dark forest. He grabbed a sword and lunged toward the wolf who sat trustingly at his feet. With one swift stroke, he impaled the unsuspecting creature. The wolf screamed horribly or was it I who shrieked? In the last awful seconds of the dream the wolf became my uncle. It was dear Germanicus who lay dying at my feet.

Though Tata and Mother rushed in to comfort me, I couldn't banish the ugly picture from my mind. "Someone wants to kill Uncle Germanicus," I gasped. "You have to save him."

"Tomorrow, love, we'll speak of it tomorrow," Tata promised, stroking me tenderly, but the morning's talk was brief. My parents agreed: a child's nightmare scarcely warranted bothering the commander in chief. Two days later when a messenger brought word of a threatened mutiny in Germania, I saw them exchange troubled glances.

My retreat in those days was a secluded corner of beach obscured by rocks. I went there alone, waded in tide pools where no one saw me but the tiny sea creatures I called my own. This is where Germanicus found me. Dropping down on a rock, eyes level with my own, he spoke. "I understand we have a seer in our midst."

I looked away. "Tata says it isn't important."


Excerpted from Pilate's Wife by Antoinette May Copyright © 2006 by Antoinette May. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 26 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 8, 2009

    A Delightful Story

    An intriguing book, well written, but the ending seemed a bit anti-climactic. <BR/><BR/>I highly recommend Colleen McCollough's "Master of Rome Series".

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 7, 2011

    more from this reviewer


    I came into reading this book with very little expectations and found that while it was well written I just couldn't connect with the main character, Claudia. She has her faults, like all characters should, but it was more than that. It was her complaining when things didn't go exactly how she asked that bothered me. The story was a good one, it had its ups and downs, but I found the end unsatisfying. It is not a book that will blow you away.

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  • Posted March 4, 2011

    Highly recommended

    I couldn't put this down. Very intriguing, and very sad story. I thought it so interesting how the author weaved her life into that of Jesus Christ's. Although this book is fiction, the author studied and prepared for years and the story is very educational. An intoxicating read.

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  • Posted August 19, 2009

    Interesting perspective

    While the story is familiar, having it told from this perspective, including some interesting background, really made it great! Great interweaving of familiar characters into the story, and it really gave me more than so many of the books about the whole time period. I love historical fiction, and this really hit all of the high points for me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2008

    Excellent Historical Romance

    I seldom read romance novels but was attracted to this book by its title since I enjoy historical fiction. PILATE'S WIFE is an easy to read story that moves at a good pace and provides authentic sounding information about Ancient Roman society and attitudes. The presentations of Mary Magdala and Jesus and Mary do not follow tradtitional teachings but this must be kept in the context of a work of fiction and not religious theology. The characters are believable and I found myself feeling sorry for Pilate at times as he struggled to understand his free spirited wife. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys both romance, history, and a bit of fantasy. It's four stars in my books and I will be looking for more works by Antoinette May.

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    Posted July 25, 2011

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