Review: Cleopatra’s Daughter

Book: Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran
Publisher: Quercus, 2009
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source + Date Read: E-book Purchase + May Dec. 2012
: Calling all Eyptologists! This is hardly an academically written text, nearly every historical detail has been prodded, twisted, turned and gutted into an interesting feat.
Book Pro’s: An engrossing read of a volatile history.
Book Con’s: Cleopatra’s daughter, is not the most lovable character in the world.
Favourite Line: “…she refused to leave anything to someone else that she could do better herself.”

Summary: Follows the incredible life of Cleopatra’s surviving children with Marc Antony — twins, named Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene, and a younger son named Ptolemy. All three were taken to Rome and paraded through the streets, then sent off to be raised by Octavia (the wife whom Marc Antony left for Cleopatra). Raised in one of the most fascinating courts of all time, Cleopatra’s children would have met Ovid, Seneca, Vitruvius (who inspired the Vitruvian man), Agrippa (who built the Pantheon), Herod, his sister Salome, the poets Virgil, Horace, Maecenas and so many others!
More Information: GoodReads

Cleopatra’s Daughter is a simple cover featuring a nameless woman in Roman garb, the background is Egyptian however. The colors are rich, but overall, I find the cover to be terribly modern, boring and artless. Where is the creativity? I love HF so I was willing to read this despite the standard issue book cover. 3 Page Turns for the disappointing cover.

The book has 2 main settings, for the first 3 chapters we are spirited away to Egypt on the verge of a political collapse. Cleopatra is still alive, barely and Marc Antony is on his way out. After their suicides, their children, Alexander, Ptolemy and Selene are taken to Rome, which Moran describes in surprisingly rich detail.

The protagonist of the book, Selene, is a wholly average young woman who eventually blossoms into a strong minded female. This is endearing in a time when women are expected to do the bidding of their fathers, brothers, sons, Caesars and Emperors. Selene, however, is wholly annoying though, as she takes whining to a whole new level. I love the brains, I dislike the griping, she has an excuse though, watching her entire family fall into ruin at the hands of her ‘Caesar’. There are many other loveable characters, such as her brother Alexander and Julia. Actually, I loved Alexander so much that when tragedy struck I was reduced to a puddle of sopping tears, which scared the wits out of my father who couldn’t understand why you would cry over a fictional person. Oh but I loved Alexander! 4 Page Turns for the amazing characters (loveable and detestable alike).

Review: Cleopatra’s Daughter is my first Michelle Moran book. The book retells the tale of the demise of Egypt to Octavian and the subsequent death of Cleopatra and Marc Antony through the eyes of their daughter, Selene. Selene and her siblings are taken to Rome where they are ‘integrated’ into Roman culture and life by Octavia, Octavian’s sister and Marc Antony’s ex-wife. In her rich home Selene and her brother, Alexander meet their various half-siblings and soon befriend Octavia’s son, Marcellus an Octavian’s daughter, Julia.

Cleopatra’s Daughter is a rich HF story filled with strong descriptions of the period, strong characters, and love. There is plenty of love and of course the insinuation of sex. Love actually serves as a great deal of tension in the story. Selene is in love with Marcellus, but he is betrothed to Julia, who loves him and is also Selene’s best friend. Alexander takes a fond liking to a man, Octavia never seems to sleep with his wife and there is rape everywhere. As well as mention of prostitutes, slavery and hardship. I believe this is one of the strengths of Cleopatra’s Daughter as we are glamored with rich tales of food, fabrics and other luxuries, yet for every pretty and glittering thing in the novel, Moran includes descriptions of murder, slavery, blood and lust. Rome was a hell-hole it seemed, a place where women were disposable and if a Slave owner is killed, his entire enslaved staff are killed as well. In one case, Moran describes how 200 slaves were poisoned or crucified because their cruel, torturous slave owner was murdered. This general disrespect for life and humanity is startling, unpleasant even but I am grateful for Moran to making the story a balanced and semi-realistic one.

Like many HF stories, Cleopatra’s Daughter is grounded in historical fact but that is where the factualness actually ends, as 97% of the story is a work of fiction. Which is dandy, however, at the end of the story I was desperate for some mention or authors note on the facts. Instead, I was reduced to a quick Wiki search. This is my only gripe with Cleopatra’s Daughter. I have given the novel  as it was a wonderful tale, equally engrossing as it was truly enjoyable. The book wasn’t a WOW piece of contemporary literature though, hence why I did not elevate the rating of the book to 5 Page Turns.

Has anyone read the story? What was your gripe with it? Did you have any? In fact, this story led me to read Nefertiti by Moran, which I actually, detested. So hold you horses for that review BWB family!



About Claire (BWB)

It's Claire (aka Quirky) from Bitches With Books, an online book blog that serves up a healthy dose of book reviews, lists + literary madness.
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2 Responses to Review: Cleopatra’s Daughter

  1. Pingback: Book Review: “Cleopatra’s Daughter” | The Cheap Reader

  2. Pingback: Quirky’s Reads 2012 | Bitches With Books

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