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Cleopatra : a life
Stacy Schiff
Adult Nonfiction DT92.7 .S35 2010

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From Publishers' Weekly:

"Cleopatra stood at one of the most dangerous intersections of history: that of women and power," writes Schiff in this excellent, myth-busting biography. It is that intersection that interests Schiff rather than romance. Cleopatra was no great beauty, we learn/ But the Egyptian queen (69-30 B.C.E.)-who was actually a Greek Ptolemy-was charismatic, intelligent, shrewd, and ruthless, concerned less with love than with maintaining her kingdom and Ptolemaic grandeur, threatened by Rome's civil wars. Caesar and Antony were seduced by her most alluring feature-her fabulous wealth, which Rome desperately needed. Schiff, author of the acclaimed A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America, faces a dearth of documentation on Cleopatra, as well as unreliable portraits by Plutarch, Dio, and others, forcing her often to speculate about Cleopatra's feelings and motives. But Schiff enters so completely into the time and place, especially the beauty and luxury of the "great metropolis" of Alexandria, Cleopatra's capital, describing it in almost cinematic detail. And though we all know the outcome, Schiff's account of Cleopatra's and Antony's desperate efforts to manipulate their triumphant enemy, Octavian, make for tragic, page-turning reading. No one will think of Cleopatra in quite the same way after reading this vivid, provocative book. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Schiff (Vera [Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov]) offers another fine biography here. Though few reliable records remain regarding the Egyptian queen, this book peels back the layers of mystery surrounding Cleopatra and attempts to reveal a legend in her own time. While Schiff takes a few liberties by ascribing emotion to her subject, she demonstrates an immense amount of research. Her narrative does not so much bring forward anything new about Cleopatra as it presents her to the contemporary reader in a more accessible and, indeed, engrossing way. The results complement Diana Preston's Cleopatra and Antony: Power, Love, and Politics in the Ancient World, which examined the reality behind the first "celebrity couple," also with an eye to contemporary readers. -VERDICT With her new book, Schiff showcases her skill at capturing a life. Her prose is elegant but easy to read and briskly paced. In spite of extensive research, Schiff's projection of emotions and motivations onto her subject tilts the results more toward pop history than real scholarship. Undergraduates, lovers of biography or ancient history, and those seeking an introduction to Cleopatra will delight in this take on the near-mythical last queen of Egypt. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/10.]-Crystal Goldman, San Jose St. Univ. Lib., CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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