Charlotte's Reviews > Cleopatra: A Life

Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff
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's review
Aug 08, 2011

One of those books that’s kind of disappointing, after all the hype, but you feel virtuous for having read it. The obvious problem is that so little is actually known about Cleopatra from firsthand or sympathetic sources that a real biography is impossible. Schiff has done a commendable job of presenting and assessing the available information but Cleopatra’s emotional presence is elusive; she probably raises more questions than she answers. I think I was hoping for a cleaner narrative along the lines of historical fiction to bring this story to life. But Schiff’s goal was to rescue the few facts we have about Cleopatra and try to put it into context, and she succeeds. At first, her extravagant, clever style distracts from the substance. But I think once you get into the story its momentum carries you along. Even without emotional padding, the stark facts illustrating Cleopatra’s ability to survive against the worst odds, and her intelligence and courage in facing the loss of everything, is incredibly moving. Worth it just for the last 50 pages.
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Finished Reading
August 8, 2011 – Shelved

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