A Life

Non-Fiction - Audiobook
Audio Book
Reviewed on 12/17/2010
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Anne Boiling for Readers' Favorite

I suppose I had romanticized Cleopatra. When I hear the name I think of Elizabeth Taylor as she depicted the infamous queen. My vision of the woman was more myth than reality according to author Stacy Schiff. Schiff describes a multifaceted woman, a woman of great intelligence, highly educated, shrewd and a great politician. Was she beautiful? We may never know. Schiff reminds readers that just as Nefertiti was considered the face without a queen, Cleopatra may be known as the queen without the face. I envisioned a beautiful woman willing to use her body to achieve her goal. There is no way to know if the young woman was beautiful, or if she sold her body. Neither do we know for certain that she captivated Caesar. Did he love her? Did she love him? We will never know for certain. My opinion is she used him. She made herself available and perhaps seduced him to benefit herself and her people.

I listened intently to this book. I was expecting a fictional account of the woman that has long fascinated me. I did not get what I was expecting. Schiff offers readers fact rather than fiction. She shares much historical data. My first comment is that we know a lot more about Ptolemies than we do about Cleopatra. Frankly, I would have preferred a fictional account.

The listener learns much about life in Alexandria and Rome. The life the women lived in that era was very interesting. The book is over 300 pages long and the audio book must be about 18 hours long. I’m not sure because I had to rewind several times when I lost my train of thought. I felt like I was reading a history of the era rather than a biography. There just isn’t enough information to write a book of this length, unless the author strays from the subject and uses a lot of fillers. Too much of this book was speculation. I wanted to know more about the Queen than the “she probably” and the “we guess.” Did I get something out of this book yes? I learned a lot. Was this book what I thought? No. Did I enjoy it? I enjoy facts and history so yes I did.

Kudos to Schiff on her writing skills. It is obvious she has a lot of talent.