We've all seen Elizabeth Taylor and her smoky eye makeup, slinking around the screen in her portrayal of Cleopatra. We've probably read Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw, and maybe even Lucan (okay, maybe not). But Stacy Schiff would like us to believe that we don't know the real Cleopatra, and in her stunning biography of this enigmatic woman, she paints a completely different picture of the queen whom history and popular culture has taught us to deride. Schiff gets an A+ in my book, along with a Pulitzer (probably the bigger prize of the two), for unearthing astonishing facts about Cleopatra's life (did you know she spoke nine languages? Seriously!) and the political and cultural atmosphere of her time. She portrays Cleopatra as cunning and brilliant, coldly calculating in each and every political move. Her descriptions of ancient Egypt and Rome are lush and vivid, and her depictions of Marc Antony, Julius Caesar and Augustus are informative and dramatic. It may be strange to describe the biography of an ancient, near-mythological figure as a page turner, but I'm just crazy enough to do it. This book is amazing.
Separates fact from fiction to reconstruct the life of the most influential woman of her era, revealing Cleopatra as a complex woman and shrewd monarch whose life and death reshaped the ancient world.