Her palace shimmered with onyx, garnets, and gold, but was richer still in political and sexual intrigue. Above all else, Cleopatra was a shrewd strategist and an ingenious negotiator.
Though her life spanned fewer than 40 years, it reshaped the contours of the ancient world. She was married twice, each time to a brother. She waged a brutal civil war against the first when both were teenagers. She poisoned the second. Ultimately she dispensed with an ambitious sister as well; incest and assassination were family specialties.
Cleopatra appears to have had sex with only two men. They happen, however, to have been Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, among the most prominent Romans of the day. Both were married to other women. Cleopatra had a child with Caesar and - after his murder - three more with his Antony. Already she was the wealthiest ruler in the Mediterranean; the relationship with Antony confirmed her status as the most influential woman of the age. The two would together attempt to forge a new empire, in an alliance that spelled their ends. Cleopatra has lodged herself in our imaginations ever since.
Famous long before she was notorious, Cleopatra has gone down in history for all the wrong reasons. Shakespeare and Shaw put words in her mouth. Michelangelo, Tiepolo, and Elizabeth Taylor put a face to her name. Along the way, Cleopatra's supple personality and the drama of her circumstances have been lost.
In a masterly return to the classical sources, Stacy Schiff here boldly separates fact from fiction to rescue the magnetic queen whose death ushered in a new world order. Rich in detail, epic in scope, Schiff 's is a luminous, deeply original reconstruction of a dazzling life.
©2010 Stacy Schiff (P)2010 Hachette Audio
"An epic subject requires a writer of epic skill and scope, and we have a perfect pairing in Cleopatra and Stacy Schiff. Absorbing and illuminating, this new biography will endure." (Jon Meacham, author of American Lion)
"A Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer presents a swift, sympathetic life of one of history's most maligned and legendary women.... Successfully dissipating all the perfume, Schiff finds a remarkably complex woman - brutal and loving, dependent and independent, immensely strong but finally vulnerable." (Kirkus)
"Captivating...Ms. Schiff strips away the accretions of myth that have built up around the Egyptian queen and plucks off the imaginative embroiderings of Shakespeare, Shaw and Elizabeth Taylor. In doing so, she gives us a cinematic portrait of a historical figure far more complex and compelling than any fictional creation, and a wide, panning, panoramic picture of her world." (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times)
I had high hopes for this, particularly since the reviews were pretty good and there was a lot of hype leading up to its release. Well, I was left very disappointed. The "story" is scattered so it doesn't read like a story. I know it's about Cleopatra's real life so perhaps it's meant to be a little dry by nature, but I still thought it would read like a tale of her life beginning to end - tumultous and exciting. Unfortunately, the author is constantly back and forth on each point between the time period she is actually discussing and the past and future that relate to the point she is discussing (if that makes any sense at all? I don't know how best to explain that, but if that's confusing, just try following along with the audio...). Many times, I thought I was losing it (e.g., Cleopatra's brother was dead, wait he wasn't dead, wait no he is dead, wait he didn't die - yet - she's just saying that he would be dead at some point although she's talking about it as if he is dead...Same issue with her dad and everyone else who passes through Cleopatra's life. Are we in Greece? No of course not, we're in Egypt. Though it really sounds like we're in Greece...). I will say, perhaps it reads better in written format than in audio. I'll give it the benefit of the doubt. There are just so many footnotes that it interrupts any potential fluidity that I have to assume exists in the hardcopy. I didn't bother to finish it although I may at some point.
I can't believe I wasted a credit on this book. It reads like a dull history book, yet isn't even based on facts. I would love nothing better than to get my credit back :(
If you're a big fan of biographies, perhaps this is the book for you ---- way too many facts and even those seemed it bit embellished. Good material but so much is unknown about Cleopatra's life that the holes and missing details caused the story to lose some life.
I wanted to love this book, and I fully expected to. Given all the glowing reviews, and the subject, it seemed like a slam dunk to me, and I downplayed any uncomplimentary reviews.
Well, an hour and a half into listening, and I reluctantly have to say that it is hugely disappointing. I appreciate the writing and, as a window on the world as it was back then, it has its place. But to center it as the story of Cleopatra is to take a short story and stretch it into a full length biography by padding page after page after page with sidebar comments and allusions.
It is what it is. No problems with that. But it is not what it claims to be. Too bad!
lots of details. 3 specially about individuals in her lifetime. full background of an icon in our history.
I love that the author takes from several different texts to compile the biography of one of the most influential, politically savy and wealthiest women of the world. As well as adding her own opinions and analyzing the cultural, political and patriarchal beliefs of the time - pointing out the insecurities of the Romans who detested and scandalized a intellectually superior monarch just because she was a woman.
I really enjoyed a deep account of one of the most famous people nonetheless women in history. Diligent efforts were taken to get the facts straight and account a tale that many of us did not know the intimate details. An eloquent description and well written!
I completely binged listened this book. Amazing details! The historical context made you feel like you were there. A gem. I've heard this book was fantastic when it first came out - I should have read it sooner.
Stacey Schiff presents a thoroughly researched, deeply contemplated and highly educational biography of the life of one of the most powerful, and perhaps most misrepresented, women in history. I really enjoyed this one: cleopatras story is equal parts empowering and fascinating!
Avid reader passionate writer
Although this is certainly a wonderful account of Cleopatra's life, you probably have to be an avid history lover to get through it. This book goes into great detail and sometimes makes it a little harder to pay attention. The narration was wonderful, though. I am a great history buff, so I enjoyed it to the end, but I can see where if the reader was looking for an electric story, they might be disappointed. If you love accurate historical events as pertains to the character, you will like this book. Stacy Schiff put a lot of research in this story and Robin Miles did a wonderful narration.
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