Book Review: “Cleopatra’s Daughter”

“Cleopatra’s Daughter” by Michelle Moran

Genre: Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction

Source: Found at my Grandparent’s house

Summary from Goodreads:

The marriage of Marc Antony and Cleopatra is one of the greatest love stories of all time, a tale of unbridled passion with earth-shaking political consequences. Feared and hunted by the powers in Rome, the lovers choose to die by their own hands as the triumphant armies of Antony’s revengeful rival, Octavian, sweep into Egypt. Their three orphaned children are taken in chains to Rome; only two– the ten-year-old twins Selene and Alexander–survive the journey. Delivered to the household of Octavian’s sister, the siblings cling to each other and to the hope that they will return one day to their rightful place on the throne of Egypt. As they come of age, they are buffeted by the personal ambitions of Octavian’s family and court, by the ever-present threat of slave rebellion, and by the longings and desires deep within their own hearts.

The fateful tale of Selene and Alexander is brought brilliantly to life in Cleopatra’s Daughter. Recounted in Selene’s youthful and engaging voice, it introduces a compelling cast of historical characters: Octavia, the emperor Octavian’s kind and compassionate sister, abandoned by Marc Antony for Cleopatra; Livia, Octavian’s bitter and jealous wife; Marcellus, Octavian’s handsome, flirtatious nephew and heir apparent; Tiberius, Livia’s sardonic son and Marcellus’s great rival for power; and Juba, Octavian’s watchful aide, whose honored position at court has far-reaching effects on the lives of the young Egyptian royals.

Selene’s narrative is animated by the concerns of a young girl in any time and place–the possibility of finding love, the pull of friendship and family, and the pursuit of her unique interests and talents. While coping with the loss of both her family and her ancestral kingdom, Selene must find a path around the dangers of a foreign land. Her accounts of life in Rome are filled with historical details that vividly capture both the glories and horrors of the times. She dines with the empire’s most illustrious poets and politicians, witnesses the creation of the Pantheon, and navigates the colorful, crowded marketplaces of the city where Roman-style justice is meted out with merciless authority.

Based on meticulous research, Cleopatra’s Daughter is a fascinating portrait of imperial Rome and of the people and events of this glorious and most tumultuous period in human history. Emerging from the shadows of the past, Selene, a young woman of irresistible charm and preternatural intelligence, will capture your heart.

review

Historical fiction books are pretty hit or miss for me. Obviously, quite a bit of my enjoyment depends on how interested I am in the time period. Over the last year, I have taken a couple classes within the Classics department at my college. I really enjoyed them and kicked myself a bit for waiting until my senior year to take these classes. One of the classes was called “HBO Rome”. We watched the first season of the show and had lectures on the historical elements of the show. That class was the perfect lead in to this book. Season one ended about 13 years before this book started. (Apparently season 2 ends with Cleopatra’s suicide making it an even better lead in.)

This is my first Michelle Moran book. Her writing style was fantastically engaging. She effortlessly paints this picture of ancient Rome for the reader.  I really couldn’t put the book down. I could read 50 pages at a time and not even realize it.

My problem with many historical fiction books is they tend to get bogged down with the details and become almost like a history book rather than a fiction book. Moran was able to blend the elements history into her own story easily. To be honest, I couldn’t tell what was historical and what was her creation (that could be good or bad though…).

I loved the way the reader is able to learn about history without even knowing it in this book. The book is still fiction but there are many true elements to the story as well. Octavian really did defeat Egypt and took Cleopatra’s children with him and give them to his sister to raise. Many of the characters in the book were real people. Most of the culture stuff in the book was true to life during that time. I don’t have an extensive knowledge of history and I was able to enjoy the book. I think even if you know nothing about Roman history you should be able read this with no problems.

I was really surprised at how much this book read like a contemporary book. Who knows if kids 2000+ years ago worried about the same stuff as we do (crushes, fights, shopping, going out, etc) but it was presented in a way that didn’t make you even question it. [This would be a fantastic book to get teenagers interested in historical fiction or even history.]

I was never quite able to get over the bizarreness of the Romans’ views on love and marriage. As you know when you get groups of children/teens together for large amounts of time, crushes start to form and little romances develop. The problem with this book is those kids are all related (half siblings, step siblings, cousins). I realize that back then this was common place (Cleopatra once married her brother!) but it’s still weird. Marriage was a completely odd too. Girls were married by 15 (probably to a 40/50 year old man). Divorce was way too common. It was weird but I was completely fascinated by the whole story.

The one thing that really annoyed me about the book was the author’s pacing. There were many times where she would skip forward in time without using paragraph breaks or even transition phrases. I would have to read a section a few times to figure out to realize she just skipped a few weeks of time. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to someone along the line to just hit the enter key a few times.

I found it so helpful that the author included a list and explanation of characters, timeline to set the book up, and a glossary of Latin words used. I kept flipping to those while reading the story. It was a big help.

Rating 3.5/5

This would be a great way to get into historical fiction or history if you’re not a big fan of it. It’s also just a good engaging story.

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: “Cleopatra’s Daughter”

  1. I was reading a book last week where the author would skip ahead in time in one paragraph. It totally confused me a few times.

    Glad to hear you still enjoyed this book! I really need to get around to reading it.

    • That’s really odd. Don’t editors realize that it’s confusing?

      Thanks for making the decision for me. 😛 I hope you get to this soon. It’s was really enjoyable.

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