Saturday 25 June 2011

Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran: Review

Cleopatra's Daughter
By Michelle Moran
Published in 2010 (Reprint)
Published by Broadway
ISBN: 978-0307409133

I read this for book club, bought it myself and was not paid for my review. So, for the love of it, basically!

A couple of weeks ago, I gave myself two glorious evenings of dedicated reading. The TV was off, husband was away for work (in Bali, the lucky bugger!) and the dog was curled up next to me on the couch in front of the air-con unit. This book was the result. 

When Octavian, who later came to be known as Augustus, defeated Marc Anthony and Cleopatra, he took their three children back with him to Rome. Sadly the youngest didn't make it, leaving only twins Selene and Alexander, the last of the Ptolemies. They both struggle to come to terms with their losses - parents, siblings, kingdoms, power, dignity - but the one who struggles the most is Selene, from whose perspective we are told the story. 

Selene was a funny character for me. She was really difficult to like a lot of the time and even though I could sympathise with her on having had a rough time, I just couldn't forgive her haughtiness and arrogance. Mind you - had I been the crown princess of Egypt, I may have been a bit up myself too. I found her brother and twin, Alexander, far more likeable. He seemed more willing to adapt and reach out to others and he showed Selene nearly boundless patience. 

This story tracks the twins as they move from childhood to adulthood, kept as guests within the household of Octavian. Despite Selene's strong desire to one day return triumphant to Egypt, they are forced to settle in to the rhythm of the life set out for them and get used to life in Rome. [This is the point I resist using the "when in Rome" joke.] They make friends with gorgeous Marcellus, the heir apparent to Octavian and the spoiled Julia, who much to Selene's chagrin, has been engaged to Marcellus since they were kids. This story line alone would probably have been plenty for this book but Moran has chosen to add the additional plot of the Red Eagle, a undercover rebel who opposes slavery and leaves posters around Rome inciting civilians to protest the injustices of the city. Who this rebel is provides additional intrigue along the way but I actually thought it ended up making the plot a bit unwieldy. 

This book was a nice quick and easy read that would suit a lazy day on the beach or curled up next to the fire (depending on the season). I enjoyed it well enough but it certainly didn't wow me. Good solid historical fiction. 

Do you think historical fiction is a good way to access the past? Or do you think that learning about the past through fiction risks clouding the truth?