Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Memoirs of Cleopatra

I love a big book - it's very satisfying. There is a depth of immersion that just can't be achieved in anything less than 500 pages. The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George is a big book at 960 pages and it is well worth the effort.

The memoirs tell the story of the whole life of Cleopatra; from growing up in Alexandria to her death by suicide at the age of forty. It covers her relationship with Caesar, her part in the chaos after his death and the side she eventually chose. That was the side of Marc Anthony and the book details their unsuccessful war with Octavian.

Margaret George derives a lot of the events from the historical record - relying on a broad range of sources and stripping away the exaggerations and defamations of Cleopatra's enemies. Some things are fictionalised but as much as possible is derived from the historical clues available.

It is an interesting story in that it is essentially the story of defeat all the way through. Cleopatra snatches her country from the machinations of her siblings and aligns herself with Caesar to preserve her throne. Which fateful decision sets her up for a lifetime of trying to prevent Egypt from becoming a Roman province. She fails at that, and ironically, it is a far richer prize at the end than it would have been if she had not saved it in the first place.

This was utterly engaging. The worldbuilding is very good and Rome and Egypt are fully realised. The staggering wealth of Cleopatra is effectively conveyed. I really enjoyed this.

2 comments:

Jay Noel said...

I LOVE world history, and really got into Roman History after reading Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra.

Talk about high drama! Even the juiciest of soap operas have NOTHING on Cleopatra.

I remember reading about her being hidden inside a rug, and when offered to Julius Caesar and unrolled, she popped up ready to seduce him!

Victoria Snelling said...

Me too! I've read a lot of Roman history and it was nice to read this and see the story from a different point of view.