My Summary and Thoughts. The Memoirs of Cleopatra takes us from the time the Egyptian queen was about twelve years old until her death at age thirty-nine. The story is told from Cleopatra's viewpoint, and we watch the young girl as she matures from a naive teenager to a politically savvy and manipulative world leader. It is a captivating story of the fall of the Roman republic and the complex politics of the Mediterranean in the late years before Christ.
Cleopatra comes across as a woman who puts her country before everything, sometimes even before her children. Because of Egypt's wealth and climate, it was a coveted ally and potential prize for Rome. When the young queen meets Julius Caesar, she is still learning about the wider world. Her alliance with Caesar and her trip to Rome taught her much about how to rule her people with a caring yet strong hand. She also learned of the dangers of power when Caesar was stabbed to death in the senate building.
We travel with Cleopatra as she visits her domain, learning through her words about the religions and cultures of Alexandria, greater Egypt, and her other possessions. She had a gift for languages and an ability to win over almost everyone with whom she had a face-to-face audience. She was blessed with capable, loyal, and trustworthy ministers, doctors, and personal servants. And she was determined to pass her throne on to her children.
By the time Marc Antony entered her life, Cleopatra had no illusions. She may have loved Antony, but she was also well aware of his faults and how she could use him to better herself and her people. The reader is left to question what Antony's fate would have been had he not been pressured to proclaim Cleopatra to be his wife or if Octavian had not befriended Agrippa. The queen's ambitions may have been the ultimate downfall of not only herself but also her Roman husband.
The book ends with an author's note about the historical basis of the story. George is clear about which plot lines and characters are factual and which are not. I did some quick research and am satisfied that George doesn't stray too far from what is known about the queen. I did find two glaring anachronisms. Cleopatra mentions paper several times. I don't believe paper reached Egypt until long after the queen was dead. Furthermore, she mentions having ships of the line, which I believe is a seventeenth-century term. There may have been other slips, but I either wasn't aware of them or I've forgotten them.
The story was engrossing throughout. I've long had an interest in the age of Julius Caesar and his nephew Octavian (later Augustus). It was interesting to see the events through Cleopatra's eyes. Her relationship with Octavian was hostile for a number of reasons, including the fact that she was mother to Caesar's son and insisted that Antony divorce Octavian's sister. Rome needed Egypt's treasury and its grain, and Octavian would stop at nothing to secure both.
I listened to the unabridged audiobook, which was brilliantly narrated by Donada Peters. The paperback is about 975 pages, and the audio comes in at 49 hours! The novel translated wonderfully to audio, and I have no doubt that it would be just as good or better in print.
I read this book to meet a number of challenges, listed below. To learn more about a challenge and to see what others are reading click on the title in the sidebar. If you have reviewed this book and are not listed in the links section, let me know and I'll add your link.
Print: Published by St. Martin's Press, 1998
Unabridged audio: Published by Books on Tape
Challenges: Winter Reading, A-Z Author, 999, 100+, Audiobooks, Well-Seasoned Reader, Buy 1 and Read
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