New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2011. $16.99,
ISBN 9781416987277 / 1416987274ISBN Paper 9781416987284 / 1416987282.
Note: "Princess Cleopatra, the third (and favorite) daughter of King Ptolemy XII, comes of age in ancient Egypt, accumulating power and discovering love."--provided by publisher
The Girl Who Would be Queen: Cleopatra's Great Ambition
Cleopatra Confesses is the latest in a series of young adult historical novels by Carolyn Meyer. In well-written prose, and vivid detail, the story describes Cleopatra's rise to the throne as told by Cleopatra herself. Since she was a young girl, Cleopatra's father, Pharaoh Ptolomy has told her that she is to be the next queen. As the third of his six children, this does not appear likely when Ptolemy is forced into exile, for both Cleopatra's sisters take the throne as co-rulers. Now Cleopatra is completely alone, and has to rely on her wits to navigate the dangers that abound the palace. When her father returns from exile, he appoints her his co-ruler. Within a very short time, Ptolomy dies, and Cleopatra has to marry her younger brother according to the terms of her father's will. Cleopatra quickly finds out that ruling Egypt is no easy task. She single-handedly has to deal with the machinations of overly ambitious politicians, several years of bad harvests, a severe downturn in the economy, and a forced exile. The arrival of Julius Caesar and his Roman troops gives Cleopatra the perfect opportunity to regain her crown, and save Egypt.
Cleopatra Confesses is not the classic portrayal of Cleopatra in the Hollywood genre. Meyer's Cleopatra is highly intelligent, confident and very well educated (a fact that is emphasized throughout the book). Here, she is represented as a strong, astute, independent young woman who has to rise to the challenge of following her father's wishes and fulfilling her role as queen in a world where politics and bloodshed coexist. The author did a wonderful job of depicting a very complicated family (who named all their kings, Ptolemy and their queens, Cleopatra), and their complex relationship in a comprehensible and fair manner. As an Egyptologist, I was impressed with the amount of historical detail the author added throughout, and her striking descriptions of the geography and culture of ancient Egypt. This information has been delivered with great clarity, and the author has not labored the facts. Consequently, the story moves along at a good speed. As a teacher, I appreciated the addition of a map and the Ptolemaic family tree in the front of the book. Furthermore, the author has thoughtfully provided supplementary tools for class discussion and research by adding historical information to the back of the book, such as: a discussion on Cleopatra's place in history, Cleopatra's fabled beauty, the author's research methods, bibliography, timeline of the story, and the Egyptian calendar.
Beyond the scholarly content, I think that this book will resonate very well with adolescent readers in that Cleopatra is portrayed in a very human light; she often feels lonely, restricted in her activities, taunted by her siblings, and longs for someone to share her life.
I highly recommend this book, and feel that it would also be a wonderful supplementary reading in the classroom. Not only does it hold your attention all the way to the end, you will also come out having learned a lot about the Ptolomaic era.
Published in Africa Access Review (March 7, 2012)
Copyright 2012 Africa Access
||Grade: M / H
Reviewed by: Lisa Swart, Egyptologist, Independent Scholar, Nashville
Subject: North Africa / Egypt / Cleopatra / Historical Fiction