A Year In Books

After reading The Hunger Games, I needed something a little less emotionally charged so I immediately turned to my favorite historical fiction writer, Margaret George. You may recall that I read George’s Elizabeth I a few weeks ago and absolutely loved it. It was the first time I was able to read a historical fiction novel without launching it across the room in frustration due to historical inaccuracy. George is a master storyteller who takes her cues from history. I love her writing and after reading Elizabeth I was eager for more.

the memoirs of cleopatra

I decided to read The Memoirs of Cleopatra. Remember when I said I needed something a little less “emotionally charged”? Yeah, this wasn’t that book. And I knew that, I mean, I’m very familiar with the life of Cleopatra, her life was anything but dull and lacking in emotion. This book captures that. Her life, her loves, her strength of character, her enemies- it’s all covered and it’s definitely not lacking in emotion. Obviously, I knew a lot of the facts of her life and I would be lying if I said Shakespeare hadn’t slightly colored my vision of her, but George brings to life a woman I think probably existed not an archetype of characterization, but a real person, a person it turns out, that I didn’t know that much about.

Of course, this is fiction so George was left to her own devices in terms of dialogue and what I like to call “filler story”, which is the story that wasn’t covered by history, the story we can only make educated guesses about. George is a genius at making educated guesses that are probably closer to truth than fiction. I have to be honest, I found a new respect for Cleopatra while reading this book. So often, when considering history we just look at what happened without imaging what the people involved were actually feeling. This book gives Cleopatra a voice. Her love and embarrassment of her father, her distrust of her sisters and one of her brothers, her ability to “own” a room, her worries over her beauty, her love for her children, her pride, her different but powerful loves of Caesar and Marc Antony, and above all her absolute devotion and adoration of her country. She was truly a Queen and a smart one at that.

When I started this book, I was less concerned with her relationships with Caesar and Marc Antony, feeling I knew quite enough about them. I was wrong of course. The complications, the worry, the way she never let a man, not even Caesar, bring her to her knees. She was a warrior in love. Yes, she loved these men, in fact, it would seem she loved them very passionately, but she was also independent of them and when they were away, she didn’t fall to pieces and mourn them until their return, she carried on amazingly. Quite a woman. I ended up quite liking George’s Marc Antony, although I didn’t care for Caesar as much- I never have though, to be honest and I’m quite sure George had a good measure of his character. Obviously, Cleopatra’s love affair and marriage to Marc Antony had a bloody ending but even that was told in way that made what she did after his death seem not only noble and fitting for her stature, but also wrought with devotion as well as political implications. It would seem Cleopatra could have had no other end but this.

If you have any interest at all in Cleopatra, I would highly recommend this book. It was a fascinating and thrilling read and most importantly (to me at least), stayed very true to actual historical fact. George has won me over all the more with this book and I can’t wait to read the next one I bought of hers!

What are you guys reading??

22 thoughts on “A Year In Books

  1. I am reading ‘The Tell-Tale Brain’ by Dr. V.S. Ramachandran. Its turning out better than expected. Its well-written!
    BTW, wish you all the best for yours!!

  2. You should try to watch Rome on HBO. I’m watching it right now and for now, the only false thing that I’ve seen is about Octavia, the sister of Octave (Future Auguste).
    The way of life of Roman are quite accurate and it easy to understand the Revolution at this time and how Caesar come to the Power.
    For now I’m readin The Black Echo by Michael Connely, yes I know another murder book !! 🙂

  3. I just finished reading “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” by Philip K. Dick and was surprised about how different the movie adaptation (“Blade Runner”) was!

    I’ve just started reading “Slaughterhouse 5” by an author one of my blog buddies put me onto… 😉

    1. Wait. Blade Runner was based on a book? Color me surprised!

      Also…YAY! I’m so happy you’re reading Slaughterhouse 5! When you’re done with that, I suggest reading “God Bless You Dr. Kevorkian” by Vonnegut. It might be my favorite. 🙂

      1. It sure was. I’m thinking of writing a comparison soon, it’s an amazing depiction of how some adaptations can go in a very different direction.

        I’ll have to see if I can get a hold of a copy of “God Bless You Dr. Kevorkian” – Vonnegut seems to be difficult to find here and now that Borders is gone I’m not sure how I’ll go!

  4. Can I please tell you how excited I am to find out that you are a history nerd too? Have you read the book Augustus? It’s historical fiction too and it’s awesome. It would be a good follow-up to Cleopatra since it’s about the first Ceasar. It includes a bunch of stuff about Marc Antony and Julius Ceasar and Cleo. I think you would like it.
    Now I need to go back and read the rest of your Hunger Games posts that I missed!

      1. True that. IT’s good to know I’m not the only historical fiction, reality tv and awkward situation enthusiast out there. Please tell me your watched Rome on HBO? If not, it’s worth adding to the nextflix cue. I’m making the hubs watch them since TV is pretty bleak in the summer and I forgot how awesome it is.

  5. Shakesoeare’s Cleo? Last year at teh Sahw Festival, the GB Shaw Ceasar and Cleopatra was revived. Get the video of this with Chris Plummer as a world and battle weary Caesar, and a spoiled little queen-girl in Cleo. Fantastic Stuff! I’m reading blogs a ll summer, and I am enjoying yours.

    1. That’s true- I think Mr. Shaw had an influence over me as well, I was just always partial to Antony and Cleopatra. Also, Chris Plummer as Caesar is probably amazing. Checking it out ASAP. Thanks for reading the blog!

  6. Chris says:

    So first of all let me begin by stating that I’ve always been a bit of a history loving nerd. So much so that ever since I was like six years old I’ve strongly considered becoming an archaeologist. I am now fourteen, and I see the many impracticalities of that profession, though I still love history none the less. I have studied Cleopatra several times, and loved her story. So I was wondering, do you think this novel would be appropriate for a mature fourteen year old girl? You made it sound very thrilling! XD

    1. Hello fellow history nerd! 🙂

      Yes, I think this book would be appropriate for you. There are a couple of lovemaking scenes but none of them are graphic. If I had a 14 year old daughter, I wouldn’t hesitate to let her read this.

  7. Weel, I went camping so I was able to read all of book one from the wheel of time series, and most of book two!! It’s been such a good reading week for me! My husband read ‘The Road’ and I don’t remember a book moving him like that one did. It’s a simple read, and short, so I think I will read it this week as well. That book had an effect on him though, he was captivated and couldn’t put it down, and it choked him up. So it must be good.

    Your book sounds like one I would read. I have read a lot of books on Cleopatra, so it would be interesting to see what that book offered.

    1. Yay! So happy you were able to make a good dent in the Wheel of Time series! I haven’t read The Road but after your hubbys experience, I think I need to get on that ASAP. I think you would probably like this book, it tells her story in such a beautiful way.

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