Title: Cleopatra: A Life
Author: Stacy Schiff
Summary from Goodreads:
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.
Personal Review: I wanted to like this book. Really, I did. I mean, come on, just look at the cover. It is so pretty. Does anyone know if that is a picture that can be bought? Because I would like to hang it up in my house. And, yes, before you ask, I am one of those people who judges a book by its cover. If you book doesn’t have a “pretty” cover, you won’t even get me too pick it up enough to read the back cover. Dramatic covers work too.
Anyway, so I wanted to like this book. However, the problem I always have with adult books was very much evident in this book. Ms. Schiff frequently used big words that I did not know. Whenever an author does that, it always makes me feel like they are trying to show how superior they are. It annoys the heck out of me. It is like I am trying to read your book, please don’t make me pull out my dictionary so I can figure out what in the heck you are trying to say!
In addition, the way Ms. Schiff wrote this book, there was one point where in my head I asked “Are you a vampire?” (Can you guess that I primarily read YA books?) The reason I was asking this question? Well Ms. Schiff wrote with such “authority” frequently saying that every other interpretation in history was wrong so I can only conclude that she was actually present at the event. She also must have had Edward abilities to read minds, because she knew what was going through Cleopatra’s head. I found her are of ultimate authority to be very off-putting, especially when she constantly criticized other interpretations throughout history.
The next thing that annoyed me, is another thing that is frequently found in adult books… the agenda. The beginning and the end of this book had such a blaring feminist agenda that I found myself angry. Now, I am one of those few female bloggers that actually hates books with a feminist agenda. If a book gets categorized as feminist, I tend to steer clear. I mean, before you try to slit my throat, I am happy that women can be equal to men, and I am in no way arguing “barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen” but books with this agenda annoy me. Let them be strong females without having to think to themselves all the time how difficult it is to be a female and a warrior because the men never take you seriously. I consider Katniss Everdeen a good example. She was a strong female, but she never had to shove the fact that she was a girl in everyone’s face. End of random tangent.
Speaking of random tangents… this author went off on way too many. There were times when I would suddenly realize that we were in another time and I had no clue when that happened. The beginning 100 pages weren’t necessarily in chronological order and so it made it really hard to follow what was happening. The middle of the book was great and I was able to follow along great, but the beginning was so hard to follow. Then, in the end, the author went on for quiet a while after Cleopatra was dead. I mean, I was glad to find out what happened to her children, or at least Cleopatra Selene, but then it seemed to go off on another random tangent.
My final annoyance with this book is that many times it seemed to concentrate more on Marc Antony or Octavian than it did Cleopatra. She would disappear for tens of pages and then all of a sudden pop back in again. It made me feel like I was at times reading someone else’s biography.
However, with all of that bad stuff aside, there were aspects that I liked. First of all, I never really learned much about Cleopatra. I loved studying history, but World War II is my favorite, and the Greeks and Romans among my least favorite, so Cleopatra never really featured in my studies. I am so glad to know more about her life. In addition, I appreciated the author’s attempt to relate to the reader through modern examples. Sometimes it was a bit much, but other times it helped me to understand the situation better.
In conclusion, I could have lived without reading it, but I am glad that I did. I feel a bit smarter and I know more about Cleopatra and who she was and where she came from.
So have you read Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff? Did you agree with me about anything? Disagree? Think I am delusional? Anyone else find the cover simply stunning??? Let me know!