Told in the first person — from the young queen’s earliest memories of her father’s tenuous rule to her own reign over one of the most glittering kingdoms in the world–this is a mesmerizing saga of ambition and power.
But it is also a tale of passion that begins when the twenty-one-year-old Cleopatra, desperate to return from exile, seeks out the one man who can help her, the Roman general Julius Caesar — and does not end until, having survived the assassination of Caesar and the defeat of the second man she loves, Marc Antony, she plots her own death rather than allow herself to be paraded in triumph through the streets of Rome.
Margaret George is known for two things, writing amazing historical fiction, and writing extremely long books. This one is over 900 pages but it's worth every word. I was reading another Antony and Cleopatra novel just before this but it was so detailed and tedious that it still sits on my bookshelf with a bookmark at the halfway point. George's version is much more readable.
Because the book starts when Cleopatra is just a child, we gain some insight into the events that transformed her life and her personality that make her the character we're all drawn to today. It's almost difficult to believe she was a real life person, her life was so unbelievably amazing.
It does always bother me that such a strong minded and intelligent woman would eventually be brought down by the love of a man. I think her love of Marc Antony blinded her and at the wrong times deterred her from her love of power. It's unlikely that she would have ever had the ability to fight the forces of ancient Rome but perhaps she would've played her role differently if not so deeply in love with Antony.
Theirs is a story as old as time so I don't think I'm giving any of the plot away. However, this book is worth reading if you want to go beneath the surface of the love story we all know. The other book I was reading went into great detail about every military battle, which is why it bored me to tears. This book gives enough information to understand the battles but balances it with all the opulence and romance that you really want to know about.
If you read only one Margaret George novel, this is the one. However, be prepared, clear a large space on your book shelf, because you will get hooked on her writing and you will need a lot of room to keep your treasury of historical tomes.
|Coin minted in 41 BCE, depicting Antony on one side and Cleopatra on the reverse.|