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Cleopatra: A Life Hardcover – Bargain Price, November 1, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
The fact that Cleopatra lived through her 20's is a tribute to her intelligence alone, as I simply could not believe just how commonplace murder was for those with power in the ancient world. Then, to maintain her position as Egypt's sovereign, Cleopatra's circumstances dictated that she had to ally herself with the Romans, the world's greatest power at the time. For a time, Cleopatra maintained the upper-hand in the power relations with two of the most powerful Romans, Julius Caesar and Marc Antony; with both men she had much written about sexual relationships. In the end, Rome became her enemy, and they also became her biographer. After reading "Cleopatra: A Life", I get the sense that the patriarchal Romans couldn't bring themselves to write a narrative showing that two of their greatest leaders were outwitted by a woman. Imagine what a biography of Monica Lewinsky would be like if it were written by ardent supporters of Bill Clinton.Read more ›
Ms. Schiff brings to vivid life a very different Cleopatra from the one depicted to us by playwrights and movie directors. Instead of a wanton seductress relying solely upon her looks, Cleopatra was one of the most authoritative rulers in the history of humanity, inheriting at the age of 18 one of the greatest kingdoms ever known, during a time in history when women had about the same social stature as farm animals.
Furthermore, Ms. Schiff is a wordsmith extraordinaire. In beautifully constructed prose that reminded me more of Nabokov than your typical biographer, Ms. Schiff paints a lovely, nuanced portrait of a great and vastly misunderstood woman. And what life the author brings to ancient Egypt too! The descriptions of the ancient world in which Cleopatra lived were so vivid that you would think the author was Cleopatra's contemporary, and not her 21st century biographer.
Ms. Schiff had a tough act to follow with herself; all her previous books have won, or been nominated for, just about every pretigious literary award you can think of.
I wouldn't be surprised if she at least gets on the short-list for the Pulitzer with "Cleopatra: A Life."
"Cleopatra: A Life" is not the book one wants it to be. A new biography of one of the most fascinating women in history who had liasons with two of the most fascinating men in history should, at least, entertain us. After all, she was Isis personified, the Queen of the Nile, the last Pharoah of Egypt, the end of the 300-year Ptolemaic dynasty, the woman who held the keys to the granaries that fed Rome, a legendary beauty of great charisma, the wealthiest woman on Earth, the symbol of all that was exotic and enticing about the sensual East--surely a biography of Cleopatra has got to be great. Stacy Schiff's book, however, disappoints. Certainly a good deal of that disappointment stems from the fact that there is simply very little information extant about Cleopatra, and much of what is "known" is questionable. There are no primary sources except her enemies, who wrote what served their purposes, while the three main secondary sources, Plutarch (writing primarily about Antony), Appian, and Dio lived well after her lifetime and all contradict one another. Even Caesar himself only mentioned her briefly. Her capital city, the Alexandria she knew, lies under the sea or has been destroyed by war and modern building; other than the profiles on her coins, there isn't even a portrait of her. Ms. Schiff acknowledges the almost total lack of reliable information right from the start, but can't quite overcome the enormity of that obstacle. Her prose is often stilted as she fills pages with everything but Cleopatra's life.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
We read this in our book club. About half of us really liked it. The other half couldn't get through it all. Read morePublished 9 days ago by Christine A. Simonson
I am new to Historical books like this one, written by Stacy Schiff. After reading Longitude by Dava Sobel (for a class) I realized how much more enjoyable they are, and I'm diving... Read morePublished 12 days ago by Ashley
Nice treatment of the many contradictory views of Cleopatra's historical account. A slight bot laborious with what seemed less than critical extensions of detail, but overall a... Read morePublished 21 days ago by Loves2Read
Interesting, but hard to keep track of all the people/details. I actually didn't finish it, but was interested enough I'll try it again this summer.Published 1 month ago by Carolyn Dillahunt
Too much material to absorb, uncoordinated dates and times.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
I'm a history buff and this book is very well written and detailed. Fun read and informative.Published 1 month ago by Reed Sherar
A wonderful, wonderful accounting of the life of this amazing woman. Just often cannot get my head around her intellect and political savvy (for awhile, anyway).Published 1 month ago by G. Hearty