Monday, February 7, 2011

review: Cleopatra

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
Published: Little Brown (Nov 1, 2010)
Pages: 352
Genre: Biography
Source: Borrowed from library

Summary (From
Her life spanned fewer than 40 years, but she was the last Egyptian pharaoh and one of the most influential women of the age. She married twice, each time to a brother; she poisoned one and waged a war against the other. To this day, the life of Cleopatra VII (69-30 B.C.) intrigues us. This adept biography by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Stacy Schiff tells us why it should. The true story of the woman behind the myth.

My thoughts: I read this book as part of the 2011 Non-Fiction Challenge hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. I chose to read about Cleopatra because I really enjoy reading about royalty--although mostly British and French royalty. Egypt has been in the headlines as of late, as well. I also love the cover-- pearls are so classic and it's quite gorgeous.

Schiff points out in the beginning the lack of evidence of Cleopatra's reign. Most of our information about her comes from Romans centuries later. Most of the writers were also largely opposed to her, calling her the fall of Marc Antony and a traitor to the Roman empire. Schiff tries to reconstruct what Cleopatra's life and rule would have been like with the small amount of information present known about her and about Rome and Egypt at the times.

This was sound read, with a lot of good information. Some parts of the book seemed to skip around to the world outside of Cleopatra and her Roman suitors, but most of it stayed centered.

And now, five facts to know about Cleopatra!

  1. Cleopatra was actually Greek, part of the Ptolemaic dynasty that ruled after Alexander the Great
  2. She met Caesar when she was in her early twenties and he was in his fifties. They had one son, Caesarion (which means "little Caesar")
  3. Cleopatra was actually in Rome when Caesar was assassinated. 
  4. She and Marc Antony had three children together. As their conquest began to fail, Marc Antony became depressed and later tried to kill himself.
  5. The stories of Cleopatra's death have been greatly exaggerated. Few experts really believe she was bit by a snake. Most believe it was poison.
Reading this book makes me really excited to read this title: Cleopatra's Moon by Vicky Alvear Schecter. It's about her daughter, Cleopatra Selene (Selene means moon in Latin, while her twin brother Alexander Helios means sun. Another fact!) It looks like a great book.

I would definitely suggest Cleopatra: A Life for anyone wanting to learn more about her. It's very well-written and instructive. 

One book down, 6 books to go in the 2011 Non-Fiction Challenge!

1 comment:

  1. Never heard of this challenge before but it is a great idea. Cleopatra is definitely an interesting character. Great review :)