Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cleopatra, by Stacy Schiff

Cleopatra: A LifeOft portrayed as the most evil, salacious, manipulative woman in history, Cleopatra may instead be greatly misunderstood.  A great Ptolemic ruler, a strong intelligent woman, and the lover of two of Rome's most respected leaders, Cleopatra accomplished more than many men could even dream of, in a rule twice as long as Alexander the Great's.  Love her or hate her, one has to respect her.

It is always difficult to review an award winning author when you do not like the book.  This book was so hyped up; perhaps I am just not meant to read historical biographies.  We learned a lot about Caesar, Antony, and Octavius, as well as the Ptolemic dynasty, but as for Cleopatra herself, we learn very little, certainly not enough to justify the 300 plus pages I had to plod through.

I find the Hellenistic period to be fascinating subject matter, so it befuddles me why this book was so boring to me.  I found the book to be disorganized, and had a lot of difficulty following the timeline; it seemed to lack continuity.  I am no student of history, so I can not speak to the quality of her research, it may be completely sound.  All I know is, it seems there is more that is unknown about Cleopatra than there is known.  And I was probably more knowledgeable 10 days and 300 pages earlier.  For dyed in the wool historians, this book may be a perfect fit, but for your everyday reader, reading this just because the New York Times tells you to may result in a huge disappointment.

A touring review copy of this book was made available by Crazy Book Tours.