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Cleopatra: A Life | [Stacy Schiff]

Cleopatra: A Life

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. Cleopatra appears to have had sex with only two men. They happen, however, to have been Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.
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Publisher's Summary

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.

Download the accompanying reference guide.

©2010 Stacy Schiff (P)2010 Hachette Audio

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Jennifer Yucaipa, CA, United States 05-08-11
    Jennifer Yucaipa, CA, United States 05-08-11 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "One of the Best"

    Definately one of the very best audible books I've listened to over the 8 years I've been listening. This book was not only fascinating but it was well written and well recorded. I totally loved it!

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ruth Upper Marlboro, MD, United States 04-27-11
    Ruth Upper Marlboro, MD, United States 04-27-11 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "BOOOOORING!!!!!"

    Bought this book, because the author was on Jon Stewart and seemed interesting. BIG mistake. Incredibly boring. Only buy if you need something to put you to sleep!

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Craig C. austin, TX United States 04-06-11
    Craig C. austin, TX United States 04-06-11 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A little disappointed"

    There had been so much hype about the book that I had raised expectations. Cleopatra and the other "characters" seemed a little flat and not very exciting.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Helen 04-01-11
    Helen 04-01-11 Member Since 2010

    running2remake

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    "Informative. Impressive subject matter and author."

    This book is so full of information. I am glad that I listened to this book because it is so detailed that it might have taken me quite some time to read it all the way through. At times, I was wondering if I was more impressed with the subject matter or the author.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ruthann La Crescenta, CA, United States 03-27-11
    Ruthann La Crescenta, CA, United States 03-27-11
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    "Should Have Been a Text Book"

    I love historical fiction, however, this book is not that. This is one of the most boring, terribly narrated books ever. If I wanted to read a dry text book, this would be it. Do not waste your money.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barrister Book Club VP 01-30-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Cleopatra -- A Life (and an Opportunity Missed)"

    I had high hopes for a rich biography that would educate me on one of world's greatetst women, the cultural, religious, economic world that she presided over, and the importance of this epoch to "civilization". Instead, "Cleopatra" read more like a People magazine/Entertainment Tonight segment about a celebrity, with a strange blend of research (Plutarch said this; but Deo said this). I know where she lived, what she wore, who fathered her children. But, this book does not explain the why's and how's-- why ancient Egypt was so advanced compared to Rome, yet why so little Egyptian history remains about her.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joseph Brooklyn, NY, United States 11-30-10
    Joseph Brooklyn, NY, United States 11-30-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Boring - worst title I've ever selected"

    Expected to learn something about the historical context in which Cleo lived. Instead author assumes you have encyclopedic knowledge of her times. Can't listen to any more. Sorry but I only am speaking of the first two chapters- couldn't go further than that.

    13 of 31 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karina L. Kerr 05-20-12 Member Since 2010
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    "not bad but not great"

    I really wanted to like this book, but I have to be honest and say I struggled with it at times. For a while, I wasn't sure I'd make it through the book, but I'm glad I stuck it out. It did get more interesting. However, I found I could only handle it for short periods at a time. I learned a lot and found some things very interesting, but other parts were VERY tedious. Maybe an abridged version (yikes!) would have been better. I just didn't care about some of the details of china patterns and the animals at celebrations, especially since they were the types of things that would have been found then, but we don't know if they really were part of her celebrations. Details are important, but this author just went too far into the minutiae at times.

    Other people have criticized her portrayal of Cleopatra, saying the author was too sympathetic and her views were skewed. That may be, but I think she does make a good point that all the recorded histories were written by men who were predisposed not to like Cleopatra. The author makes some good arguments for her point of view. I guess we'll never really know the truth, but I would guess this view of Cleopatra is closer to the truth than many of the other views we've been given of her. I don't think the author is trying to be sympathetic, but rather fair.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Natalie Seattle, WA, United States 05-10-11
    Natalie Seattle, WA, United States 05-10-11 Member Since 2010

    NattyJo

    ratings
    REVIEWS
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    "Informative"

    I purchased this book after reading Michelle Moran's "Cleopatra's Daughter", "Nefertiti" and "The Heretic Queen". I really enjoyed the time period and thought Cleopatra would be interesting as well.

    While the book was good, it was very detailed, using other historians' theories about her life. The author made good points, supported by research and facts, but it was hard to follow in an audio format.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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