Thursday, September 2, 2010

Cleopatra's Daughter - Michelle Moran

cleopatra's daughter
michelle moran
c. 2009
411 pages
completed 8/29/2010

read for: year of the historical challenge

*may contain spoilers*

While we waited for news to arrive, we played dice.

News quickly did arrive, news of Egyptian defeat and the suicide of Marc Antony. As Octavian and his Roman army invaded Queen Kleopatra's Alexandrian palace, she followed her husband's example and committed suicide herself, leaving her eleven year old twins, Alexander and Selene, at the mercy of Rome. While at first paraded through the streets of Rome in chains to celebrate Octavian's triumph over Antony and Kleopatra, the twins soon find themselves treated as honored royal guests, living with Octavian's sister Octavia, and becoming fast friends with the children of both Octavian and Octavia. Though day to day life seems easy, the twins know their fate is in the hands of Octavian, a man who may decide at any moment that they are a threat to his rule.

For the most part, I enjoyed this book. Michelle Moran's Egyptian historical fiction has been really popular in the past few years, but this is the first one I read, so I cannot comment on how it compares. I can say that after reading this one I am looking forward to reading the others. Most of this book is set in Rome, anyway, so I'll be interested to see more Egyptian culture in the others.

It's funny, my sister the librarian and I were just talking last night about a specific problem that we have found in a lot of historical fiction that deals with real people. I also think I mentioned this in a review post earlier this year. Too often, I have found, the only historical figures that people seem to want to write about are tragic historical figures. So while the story is interesting, it's still kind of a downer. I, for one, refuse to believe that their are no people in the world who are both interesting and happy. They don't have to be happy all the time, I can be down with personal struggles and heartache, but every once in a while it would be great for a happy ending. Cleopatra's Daughter ends somewhat happily. There is love. And there is freedom. But there is also death and exile. So this come close to what I'm looking for, I guess, but it's not quite there.

I felt that Moran did a really good job of depicting, not just the events that were specific to the story of Alexander and Selene, but also events that really explained the political struggles that were going on in Rome at the time. Specifically, the two trials Selene witnessed, which were not sugar coated, and Moran's invention of the Red Eagle. Both trials horrified me. Octavian surely had his work cut out for him in keeping the peace in Rome.

There were a few things that irritated me throughout the book. Within the actual text of the novel, Kleopatra (both mother and daughter) is spelled with a K. Yet the title is spelled with a C. I don't know if one is more historically accurate, but I think it should have been consistent. I like consistency. Because there was no consistency between the book and the book title I was forced to be inconsistent in my post. Which makes me sad. There was also a lot of expository writing in the first few chapters. Like, a lot of Marcellus explaining Rome to Alexander and Selene when they first arrived. I can kind of look past that as Alexander and Selene were new to Rome and didn't know anything and at least there was a Q&A session between characters instead of just one big long descriptive paragraph/chapter, but at times it made me think of chapter two of every Babysitter's Club book where each character and the creation of the club is described in detail. I wish there had been a bit more discovering of Roman culture through the story and less through Marcellus' monologue.

A good read. Some parts were horrifying, but it was nicely balanced with universal adolescent concerns (first love, struggles with parents, etc).


No comments: