Monday, December 7, 2015

Book Rant: Cleopratra’s Daughter

This is not the first Michelle Moran novel I have read, and it was not my favorite at first, but I have grown to enjoy the lush descriptions of ancient Rome as much as the depictions of ancient Egypt in the previous two novels.  As with several of Ms. Moran’s works, the protagonist is a young girl who grows both mentally and physically through many years that the story covers.  Noted in the first few pages, Kleopatra Selene and her mother (the famous Kleopatra VII, last Ptolemaic queen of Egypt) spell their name in the traditional Greek way.  One of the antagonists, later in the novel, purposely Romanizes Selene’s name, which whether or not true, certainly happened at some point (or we wouldn’t be seeing “Cleopatra” in every wig search at Halloween!).

                                                        (Image from
Selene is the main character, choosing her second name to differentiate herself from her famous mother.  One of the reasons I have gravitated toward this book is the attractive personality of Selene and many of the characters she interacts with.  With many of the historically-based novels I frequent, the main character’s prerogative is to hold nothing back from the reader.  It is not a diary-like, first-person method, but an even deeper, more unrestricted kind of reading.  As with all of Michelle’s protagonists, Selene has a special skill (aside from the natural inside and outside beauty exhibited by many of her protagonists).  In this case, it’s drawing, but not in a poetic, abstract sense.  Selene combines her natural geometry and artistic abilities to create stunning and realistic architectural drawings.  This was particularly clever of Michelle, because it allowed her to showcase many of the fantastic architectural works of the age to her audience, some of which have been lost to time.

As mentioned before, I was drawn to the story not because of the detailing of Rome at first.  This is because Rome is sadly one of the last on my list of interesting historic places.  I have been infatuated with Egypt and Mesopotamia far longer, and even basic historical documentaries on Rome don’t tend to hold my attention.  I think it because of the focus on warfare and the notably grotesque interests of the people living at the time (think of their favorite forms of entertainment).  Michelle Moran has salvaged my impression of ancient Rome, just as she broadened my passion for others, such as New Kingdom ancient Egypt.  For that, she has my undeviating position as a huge fan of many of her works.  This is another fascinating peak into the lives of men and women who lived so long ago.  Great work Michelle!

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