Book Review: Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff

I know I haven’t done a book review in a while.  Or at least that’s what it feels like.  Most of that reason is this book.

See, I have a confession.  My library is made up of mostly young adult fiction.  I have these for two main reasons (other than I simply love the story lines).  First, I have a very short attention span.  Although I romanticize about sitting in a big reading chair all day, lost in a book, that doesn’t happen very often.  I usually have a running to do list in my head of things I need to do, or want to do, or are thinking about wanting to do.  Second, I have a better chance of getting a great story line with a young adult fiction without a graphic sex scene, or incredibly filthy language.  I know this isn’t always the case, but it’s less likely.

However, I wanted to branch out a little bit, broaden my horizons, so I heard about this author, Stacy Schiff who is a Pulitzer prize winner.  She had a book on the New York Times Bestseller list, and it had rave reviews.  That book was Cleopatra.  I got it from the library, but eventually had to get my own copy so I didn’t worry about renewing it too many times.  You see, with YA novels, it’s like running a 5K.  With this book, it was more of a marathon.

The book, itself, was vivid and amazing.  Schiff paints a gorgeous picture of the world of Cleopatra, from her struggle to come to power to her love stories with both Caesar and Mark Antony to her death by her own hand.  She was loved by her people, which was not very common.  She came from Alexander the Great and was more Greek than Egyptian.  She was an amazing woman in a world of men.

There’s not a lot of recorded history of Cleopatra, but her life bled into the world around her.I learned a lot of things about that tumultuous time.  She covered the struggle of power between Octavian and Antony after the death of Caesar.  Schiff is careful to bring all accounts of the events with their appropriate biases into the story.

I didn’t read the book straight through, but I didn’t pick up another book until I finished this one.  I had to put the book down for a couple weeks, and then pick it back up.  The writing is mature, not in a graphic sense, but it’s vocabulary and structure are written intelligently.  If you are looking for something different and amazing, I would definitely check out this book!

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