Review: Cleopatra Confesses by Carolyn Meyer



Title: Cleopatra Confesses

Author: Carolyn Meyer

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

ISBN: 978-1416987277


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

It is the first century B.C. Cleopatra, the third of the pharaoh’s six children, is the one that her father has chosen to be the next queen of Egypt. But when King Ptolemy is forced into exile, Cleopatra is left alone to fend for herself in a palace rife with intrigue and murder. Smart, courageous, ambitious and sensuously beautiful, she possesses the charm to cause two of history’s most famous leaders to fall in love with her. But as her cruel sisters plot to steal the throne, Cleopatra realizes there is only one person on whom she can rely–herself.


Even though I’ve read a ton of books about Cleopatra, I am always excited to discover another one.  She is one of the most fascinating women in history.  She held territory hungry Rome at bay for years, and remained the ruler of her country.  She loved books and reading, and was a serious student.  She was descended from Alexander the Great, the greatest warrior the world has ever known.  How could this woman not kick major butt?

Despite the allure behind her name, there’s not really much known about her.  The historic accounts of her life were written mostly by Romans, and let’s face it, they weren’t her biggest fans.  With the wave of her hand, she swayed two of their strongest generals to her side, and kept them there until their deaths.  When her world started collapsing around her, when she felt the snarling teeth of Rome snapping at her, she still kept her dignity and pride firmly intact.  How can you not admire a woman who gave some much of herself to her people, and sought to be a better ruler than even her father?

I love fictional accounts of the lives of historical figures.  Reimagining and breathing life into them, building a story based on what little is known of their day to day lives, I have always enjoyed books like Cleopatra Confesses.  While at times a little too textbook like, I couldn’t put this down.  The story starts when Cleopatra is a young girl, and her father is away in Rome, trying to barter with the Romans to keep them out of Egypt.  Never a wise ruler, her father pushes the country to the brink of financial ruin.  As Cleopatra witnesses the hardship placed on the populace, the people who have been tasked with paying for the enormous debts incurred by her father, she vows to be a wiser ruler.

The tension between Cleopatra and her power hungry siblings is a major plot point in the book.  She has nobody she can truly trust, and everyone seems to have something to gain from her death.  With her mother dead and her father not quite stable, Cleopatra has to learn to depend on herself and her own judgment.  Life is neither easy nor safe of the young princess, and her  sharp tongue and typical child’s lack of common sense gets her into a lot of trouble.  As the years pass, events do begin to temper her, and she learns to be more cunning.  While trying to avoid the attention of her older sisters, Cleopatra perfected the game of politics that would serve her so well later in her life.

I wish that the book has been longer, and that her later years had been exploded with more depth.  We are given a large taste of her childhood, as she sails with her father down the Nile, but the rest of her life comes off as being short-changed.  Despite this and the occasional info dumping, I really liked this book.  I felt like I was there, in Egypt, seeing events unfold with Cleopatra. 

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher