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The Woman Who Would Be King

Hatshepsut's Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt
Narrated by: Kara Cooney
Length: 10 hrs and 23 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (329 ratings)

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Editorial Reviews

"Egyptologist Cooney peels back the layers of the life of Hatshepsut, Egypt's second female pharaoh, providing a multidimensional portrait of a woman of strength, intelligence, and substance." ( Booklist)

Publisher's Summary

An engrossing biography of the longest-reigning female pharaoh in Ancient Egypt and the story of her audacious rise to power.

Hatshepsut - the daughter of a general who usurped Egypt's throne and a mother with ties to the previous dynasty - was born into a privileged position in the royal household, and she was expected to bear the sons who would legitimize the reign of her father’s family. Her failure to produce a male heir was ultimately the twist of fate that paved the way for her improbable rule as a cross-dressing king. At just over twenty, Hatshepsut ascended to the rank of pharaoh in an elaborate coronation ceremony that set the tone for her spectacular reign as co-regent with Thutmose III, the infant king whose mother Hatshepsut out-maneuvered for a seat on the throne. Hatshepsut was a master strategist, cloaking her political power plays in the veil of piety and sexual reinvention. Just as women today face obstacles from a society that equates authority with masculinity, Hatshepsut shrewdly operated the levers of power to emerge as Egypt's second female pharaoh.

Hatshepsut successfully negotiated a path from the royal nursery to the very pinnacle of authority, and her reign saw one of Ancient Egypt's most prolific building periods. Scholars have long speculated as to why her monuments were destroyed within a few decades of her death, all but erasing evidence of her unprecedented rule. Constructing a rich narrative history using the artifacts that remain, noted Egyptologist Kara Cooney offers a remarkable interpretation of how Hatshepsut rapidly but methodically consolidated power - and why she fell from public favor just as quickly. The Woman Who Would Be King traces the unconventional life of an almost-forgotten pharaoh and explores our complicated reactions to women in power.

©2014 Kara Cooney (P)2014 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"The life of Hatshepsut, Egypt's second female pharaoh, was replete with opulent living, complex royal bloodlines, and sexual energy; in short, the kind of drama that fuels Ancient Egypt's enduring appeal…From Hatshepsut’s self-perception, political prowess, and lifestyle emerge an image of the ‘ultimate working mother’ and a compelling insight into ancient gender roles." ( Publishers Weekly)
"This biography could only be based on conjecture and guesswork, but the addition of expertise makes it well worth reading. The author's Egyptology background provides the nitty-gritty of daily life and animates this king (at the time, there was no word for 'queen')…. Cooney's detective work finally brings out the story of a great woman's reign." ( Kirkus Reviews)

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  • carol
  • Katonah, NY, United States
  • 04-19-15

Fascinating and Thorough

Written and narrated extremely well. A view of Egyptian history that creates an eye opening history of women of strength, power and courage. Fascinating.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Overt Agenda

While all work regarding Hatshepsut must veer into the speculative Mrs. Cooney has fallen into the common trap of allowing her own bias to override the facts.
This becomes apparent when she derides the last of the Ptolemies, Cleopatra, essentially accepting Octavian propaganda and allowing it to become entwined with her own modern bias. More to the point, she sees Cleopatra as a slut and a female ruler that failed. So much for consideration of the woman's political acumen, overall intelligence or her last coup against Octavian when she chose her own death. The latter no small feat when one is pitted against Empire.
Hatshepsut, in contrast, is the good ruler. The one woman who made it by, essentially, not rocking the boat. Women, in general, it is opined will only make it if they work within the confines of male society. A very limiting viewpoint and one that is not exactly borne out by the historical record.
The subject is wonderful. The facts are there. The book itself is weighted down by the idea that there is only one way to successfully maintain power.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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Not enjoyable

It's not a history book, it's not a novel. I felt like the book was stuck in the middle. The characters didn't have the necessary depth of a novel and the facts where not detailed as needed to be a historical book. The constant guessing of feelings was tedious and annoying.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Mediocre Writing

So many modal verbs, so much subjunctive, so much plucky Hatshepsut—

“She may have” done any number of things, but I did not finish listening to this mediocre goo.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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More romantic than historical

I was really excited for this book and wanted to be really excited into it, however, so many inferences are made (“she might have felt”, “he might of wished”) that it became more of a fictional novel. Maybe if I read it as a non-fiction book I would of liked it better.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 12-16-18

Exceptional

I just read Cooney’s most recent book “When Women Ruled the World”. I was impressed enough to hunt down other of Cooney’s publications. I found this one about the life of Hatshepsut.

Hatshepsut ruled Egypt as Pharaoh approximately 3500 years ago. She reigned for twenty-two years. Apparently, Hatshepsut was the High Priestess of Egypt prior to taking the throne. According to Cooney she did no wrong and Egypt thrived under her reign. She built strong trade agreements, expanded the Empire and lost no wars. As there were no diaries, etc., Cooney said she had to use conjecture to flesh out the fascinating story of her life.

I am glad I listen to this on audiobook and listen to Cooney pronounce all the hard to say Egyptian names. I found this a most interesting story. The book is ten hours and twenty-three minutes. Kara Cooney does an excellent job narrating the book.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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I really enjoyed it

I expected it to be more dramatized and from Hatshepsut's perspective and I was at first disappointed. But it was a good listen and gave me a better understanding of that time. It is almost like a text book in some ways so if your looking for a drama or fiction look elsewhere. If you love history you will love this.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Good Historical Listen PG-13

There is an admission up front that some of the book's content is speculation and it's honestly obvious so no hidden agenda to lead the listener's opinion. The historical facts are interesting and make this a worthwhile download.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Narration Choice Critical

No matter how great a book biographical info can be boring if listening to someone who has a sing song voice. This is one author who should be willing to allow another to read her works aloud.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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sparked my interest in Egyptian history

I had never been particularly interested in Egyptian history before listening to this book but the author made it really come alive and I now count Egyptian history as a personal interest.
It's obvious that the author has an expert's understanding of Egypt's archaeological history and she's woven it into an incredibly interesting personal narrative of an exceptional leader of the ancient world.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful