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Cleopatra: A Life Paperback – September 6, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. From its opening strains of music, this audiobook of Schiff's stellar biography of the Egyptian queen rewards the intellect and the senses. As Schiff dusts away history's spider webs, romance's distortions, and sexism's corruptions to reveal the true (or at least the truest possible) portrait of Cleopatra, Robin Miles's voice is deep, confiding, the perfect instrument to introduce a history that has been variously forgotten, misunderstood, or suppressed. Her enunciation is crisp, her pacing pure charm: she wrings every sentence for meaning, irony, and wit, taking us through pages of description or analysis with a stately pace. A Little, Brown hardcover. (Nov.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
For those who think they know enough about Cleopatra or have the enigmatic Egyptian queen all figured out, think again. Schiff, demonstrating the same narrative flair that captivated readers of her Pulitzer Prize–winning Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) (1999), provides a new interpretation of the life of one of history’s most enduringly intriguing women. Rather than a devastatingly beautiful femme fatale, Cleopatra, according to Schiff, was a shrewd power broker who knew how to use her manifold gifts—wealth, power, and intelligence—to negotiate advantageous political deals and military alliances. Though long on facts and short on myth, this stellar biography is still a page-turner; in fact, because this portrait is grounded so thoroughly in historical context, it is even more extraordinary than the more fanciful legend. Cleopatra emerges as a groundbreaking female leader, relying on her wits, determination, and political acumen rather than sex appeal to astutely wield her power in order to get the job done. Ancient Egypt never goes out of style, and Cleopatra continues to captivate successive generations. --Margaret Flanagan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
We know next to nothing about Cleopatra’s early years. She is a young woman when we first encounter her. Much of the first part of the book is more about Julius Caesar; to history, she is important only through him. It is only after his death that Cleopatra, to history, becomes a major player in her own story.
I thought I knew everything there was to know about Cleopatra, but there were some surprises in this book. That said, this is not an introductory work on Cleopatra or her times. Instead, it is a complement to other works. It is very interesting, very insightful, and very worth reading.
The book reads at times like a college textbook, but at other times more like an interesting news article. Thankfully, the references are at the end and the footnotes are appropriate, only providing a bit of background information. However, the book could certainly have been enhanced by a few maps, a biographical listing of the many historical figures and a more thorough index. For example, Cleopatra's father is Ptolemy VII, but after first introducing him (confusing again because lots of Ptolemy's), he is referred to as Auletes. But later he might again be referred to as Ptolemy. If you have many breaks in the reading, total confusion. And, "Auletes" is not listed in the index as such but under Ptolemy. This could be chalked up as sloppy reading on my part, but remember it is hyped to "read as a novel." Places and names simply need more information.
In short, this is definitely an act of scholarship that is presented in an interesting manner. Cleopatra was a complicated woman so the book is complicated as well.