The Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer brings to life the most intriguing woman in the history of the world: Cleopatra, the last queen of Egypt.Her palace shimmered with onyx, garnets, and gold, but was richer still in political and sexual intrigue. Above all else, Cleopatra was a shrewd strategist and an ingenious negotiator. Though her life spanned fewer than forty years, it reshaped the contours of the ancient world. She was married twice, each time to a brother. She waged a brutal civil war against the first when both were teenagers. She poisoned the second. Ultimately she dispensed with an ambitious sister as well; incest and assassination were family specialties. Cleopatra appears to have had sex with only two men. They happen, however, to have been Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, among the most prominent Romans of the day. Both were married to other women. Cleopatra had a child with Caesar and -- after his murder -- three more with his prot g . Already she was the wealthiest ruler in the Mediterranean; the relationship with Antony confirmed her status as the most influential woman of the age. The two would together attempt to forge a new empire, in an alliance that spelled their ends. Cleopatra has lodged herself in our imaginations ever since. Famous long before she was notorious, Cleopatra has gone down in history for all the wrong reasons. Shakespeare and Shaw put words in her mouth. Michelangelo, Tiepolo, and Elizabeth Taylor put a face to her name. Along the way, Cleopatra's supple personality and the drama of her circumstances have been lost. In a masterly return to the classical sources, Stacy Schiff here boldly separates fact from fiction to rescue the magnetic queen whose death ushered in a new world order. Rich in detail, epic in scope, Schiff 's is a luminous, deeply original reconstruction of a dazzling life.
- ISBN-13: 9780316001946
- ISBN-10: 0316001945
- Publisher: Back Bay Books
- Publish Date: September 2011
- Dimensions: 8.28 x 6.6 x 1.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.9 pounds
- Page Count: 432
Best paperbacks for reading groups
Two novels and a biography of one of history's most controversial women top our book club suggestions for September.
Alison Espach’s impressive debut, The Adults, is a witty and perceptive novel that chronicles the coming-of-age of 14-year-old Emily Vidal. Raised in a well-to-do corner of Connecticut, Emily is an intelligent, cynical teen with a solid set of parents—or so she thinks, until her father, at his 50th birthday party, declares that a divorce is imminent. Things get stranger for Emily when it’s discovered that the family’s neighbor, Mrs. Resnick, is carrying Mr. Vidal’s child. After her father departs for Prague and her mother takes to drinking, Emily finds herself at loose ends, with little respect left for the so-called adults in her life. As a sort of experiment, she begins an affair with an older man—an English teacher named Jonathan with whom she forges a long-term connection. Absorbing the shocks of loss and change, Emily evolves from sarcastic teen to mature adult, and her story—populated with offbeat neighbors, rebellious friends and boring teachers—makes for an unforgettable read. A stylish writer, Espach offers an insightful and convincing tale of young adulthood.
A REGAL PORTRAIT
Cleopatra, Stacy Schiff’s much-acclaimed biography, sheds new light on one of history’s most misunderstood monarchs. Offering fresh perspectives on the controversial queen, Schiff revises Cleopatra’s licentious image and presents in its stead a portrait of a multifaceted leader—a savvy statesperson and capable administrator who was adept at navigating tumultuous political waters. Although the oft-repeated allegations of bawdiness and violence are not misplaced, the truth about Cleopatra, as Schiff shows, is more complex. The lavishly quartered queen (her palace featured gold and onyx appointments) took her duties seriously, handling war, diplomacy and powerful men with the cunning of a seasoned diplomat. Schiff—winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov)—is a skillful storyteller who knows how to spin the threads of history into a compelling narrative. Here, she clears away the tall tales to get at the truth about Egypt’s elusive queen.
TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS
Although it’s set at a Catholic boys’ school in Dublin, Paul Murray’s second work of fiction is anything but straight-laced. Daniel “Skippy” Juster is a 14-year-old student at Seabrook, and his death occurs early in this comic-ironic novel. Flashing back into Skippy’s past, Murray presents him as something of a loner, more thin-skinned than his gang of friends, which includes Ruprecht, a brainiac who’s obsessed with string theory; Mario, a wannabe lady-killer; and Carl, a demented drug-pusher. Among Seabrook’s student body, academic performance frequently takes a back seat to more pressing topics, such as the opposite sex. Indeed, matters of the heart make life complicated for Skippy, who competes with Carl for the affections of a girl named Lori. This classic tale of adolescence is filled with the requisite references—sports and sex, technology and religion—while Murray’s wit colors the entire proceedings. Skippy Dies is a delight from start to finish.