Randy’s Reviews: Pilate’s Wife by Antoinette May (Randyjw; June 13, 2017)
I believe in things like karma, synchronicity, and the other myriad, subtle influences that play a part in our lives, both physically and metaphysically. Little did I know that this fictional book, set just preceding and throughout the nadir of Pontius Pilate’s governorship in Judea during the reign of the Roman Empire, would touch me self-reflectively in the many references it makes to the journey I’ve felt myself to be on in recent months.
I’ve felt that the “universe” has been trying to tell me something very important that I have apparently been overlooking in my life. The same is being said to be the missing factor of the main character in this novel, Claudia Proculus, the eventual wife of Pontius Pilate. She is besotted with making this charming, handsome man her own, and goes to great lengths to see that this occurs, even seeking incantations from the mystagogue at her temple of Isis, to whom she swore devotional allegiance. Whether divinely inspired or chemically-induced, the attraction seems to work it’s magic spell and lures Pilate to her side, with equal ardor.
Claudia lives an idyllic childhood all too abruptly thrown into turmoil, as her life takes on tragic twists in the fate of her family members. She realizes that her inner happiness is in question, as well as her choices. Her child with Pilate brings her great joy, compounded by the realization that the man she really loves cannot be in her life. Their brief dalliances must last her a lifetime, and they do.
The book was researched by its author, Antoinette May, over a course of many years, taking about fourteen years’ time to complete. Several of these years were spent delving into the studies, documents, literature and resources of the Classics Department at Stanford University to research the era of this time, in order to make the real-life characters of the time come to life. I felt it was a very unique insight into the formation of monotheistic religion from its beginnings from its more nature-based, pagan panoply of deities. I loved the descriptions of the clothing, which were fashioned often after the celestial bodies of the stars, sun, and moon; the mentions of the various deities and their properties and how people came to worship them; etc.
While I appreciate that the Jewish slave, Rachel, was strictly written about in human terms and was never shown in any diminutive fashion, I felt that there was unnecessary antagonism toward the Jewish people portrayed by Ms. May in her wording and the feeling that I got based on her attitudes, which seemed particularly stereotypical and condescending toward the Jewish people as a religion and as a people. For this reason, I was really disappointed, although the book was otherwise an engaging and engrossing read. Taking this in mind, I do hope you have a chance to read and enjoy this book, as a love story and as a throwback to ancient times.