Cleopatra: A Life, by Stacy Schiff


2012 Book 99: Cleopatra: A Life, by Stacy Schiff (7/4/2012)

Reason for Reading: I needed to buff up my “Memoir and Biography” category in 12 in 12 group, and this book fit into the Reading Globally theme read for Middle Eastern literature since it took place in Egypt.

My Review: 3.5/5 stars
Cleopatra: A Life is a light biography which is appropriate for the popular reader…not so much for historians or people who have already read a lot on the subject. There is a lot of speculation (Schiff admits as much) because there is not a contemporary information on the topic. Schiff’s thesis is that Cleopatra is not the conniving seductress that historians have suggested. The first third of the book covers her early life and relationship with Julius Ceasar, but this part not well organized. Schiff’s narrative jumps from subject to subject and does not do a very good job of explaining the political background. In fact, this section focuses mainly on how rich Cleopatra was and dwells in great detail on opulence. The last two thirds of the book come together in a tighter, more interesting narrative, however. This is where Schiff discusses Cleopatra’s relationship with Antony and its political ramifications. This is a good book to read for the “popular” reader who does’t have a specific interest in the subject. However, I ‘m guessing there may be biographies that better describe her relationship with Ceasar and the political ongoings at that time.

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