Asho's Reviews > Cleopatra: A Life

Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff
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's review
Jun 23, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: kindle-edition, books-we-own
Read in June, 2011

An extremely well-researched book that demonstrates how very little we can possibly know about Cleopatra and how much the legend of Cleopatra likely differs from her reality. Her history was first recorded 100 years after the fact by Romans (who were her enemies) and then embellished from there. Schiff does an admirable job of sifting through the embellishments to tell the most likely--if not always the most passionate or romantic--story.
I added this book to my Kindle after seeing Jon Stewart interview Schiff on The Daily Show. I was expecting the book to be a bit more of a "popular" history in the vein of Erik Larson, so the only reason this wasn't a 5-star read for me was because it didn't have the narrative flow that I was anticipating. Had I read this for a history course, though, and been expecting the more academic history that it is, it would have been 5 stars I think. And I don't mean to imply that Schiff's voice is absent, because it certainly is not. One of the things I enjoyed most about this book was her occasionally sarcastic tone.
Before reading this book the extent of my knowledge of Cleopatra came from Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra. I was shocked to find that some of the most dramatic and emotional moments of the play come directly from the historical sources.
I loved the driving concept behind this book: digging through the male-written source documents that attempt to depict Cleopatra as primarily a sexually promiscuous, witch-like temptress to try to get closer to the truth: that Cleopatra was likely a shrewd, intelligent, admired and creative (if sometimes vicious) ruler.

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04/30/2011 page 50
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