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Cleopatra: A Life

by

Cleopatra: A Life Cover

ISBN13: 9780316001922
ISBN10: 0316001929
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Awards

Staff Pick

I'm rather sure that all three of Stacy Schiff's previous works have been nominated for some award or another. With a pedigree like that, you know that her latest biography is bound to be a must-read. Stripping away all the previous misconceptions about this fascinating queen, Schiff dazzles us with another Cleopatra: a canny, capable, and charismatic ruler working against the tide to preserve her nation. A riveting and compelling read. Recommended for all and any history buffs.
Recommended by Sheila N., Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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 protege. 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.

Review:

"[A] page-turner...even more extraordinary than the more fanciful legend. Cleopatra emerges as a groundbreaking female leader, relying on her wits, determination, and political acumen rather than sex appeal to astutely wield her power in order to get the job done. Ancient Egypt never goes out of style, and Cleopatra continues to captivate successive generations." Booklist

Review:

"A Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer presents a swift, sympathetic life of one of history's most maligned and legendary women....Successfully dissipating all the perfume, Schiff finds a remarkably complex woman — brutal and loving, dependent and independent, immensely strong but finally vulnerable." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"Schiff showcases her skill at capturing a life. Her prose is elegant but easy to read and briskly paced....Undergraduates, lovers of biography or ancient history, and those seeking an introduction to Cleopatra will delight in this take on the near-mythical last queen of Egypt." Library Journal

Review:

"What makes the book so compelling is Schiff's masterful evocation of broader questions....Schiff does not flinch from her incestuous and murderous family history, but this account, pieced together with modern methods and sensibilities, makes for fascinating reading." Cleveland Plain Dealer

Review:

"Taking Cleopatra's political goals seriously, Schiff reanimates her as a living, breathing woman: utterly extraordinary, to be sure, but recognizably human." Los Angeles Times

Review:

"Schiff is at her best in conveying the physical lushness of Cleopatra's exotic world with its glittering sun and sand....Mixing contemporary sources, beautiful writing and psychological insight, Schiff makes us empathize with the heroine of this tale of togas, territorial conquest and hot love." USA Today

Synopsis:

Her palace shimmered with gold but was richer still in political and sexual intrigue. Cleopatra, the wealthiest ruler of her time and one of the most powerful women in history, was a canny political strategist, a brilliant manager, a tough negotiator, and the most manipulative of lovers. Although her life spanned fewer than forty years, it reshaped the contours of the ancient world.

At only 18 years old, Cleopatra was already one of history's most remarkable figures: the Queen of Egypt. A lethal political struggle with her brother marked her early adulthood and set the tone for the rest of her life; a relationship with Julius Caesar, forged while under siege in her palace, launched her into a deadly mix of romance and strategy; a pleasure cruise down the Nile followed, a child, and a trip to Rome, which ended in Cleopatra's flight. After Caesar's brutal murder, she began a nine-year affair with Mark Antony, with whom she had three more children. Antony and Cleopatra's alliance and attempt to forge a new empire spelled both their ends.

The subject of gossip and legend, veneration and speculation in her lifetime, Cleopatra fascinated the world right up to her death. In the 2000 years since, myths about the last Queen of Egypt have been fueled by Shakespeare, Dryden, and Shaw, who put words in her mouth, and by Michelangelo, Delacroix, and Elizabeth Taylor, who put a face to her name. In Cleopatra, Pulitzer prize-winning biographer Stacy Schiff accomplishes a feat that has eluded artists and writers for centuries: capturing fully the operatic life of an exceptionally seductive and powerful woman, whose death ushered in a new world order.

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About the Author

Stacy Schiff is the author of Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov), winner of the Pulitzer Prize; Saint-Exupery, a Pulitzer Prize finalist; and A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America, winner of the George Washington Book Prize and the Ambassador Book Award. Schiff has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. The recipient of an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she lives in New York City.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 17 comments:

Kim Jereczek, January 3, 2013 (view all comments by Kim Jereczek)
This is a fantastic biography; it reads like the best fiction!
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
AZ1gecko, January 1, 2013 (view all comments by AZ1gecko)
It was a pleasure to read a book on Cleopatra that did NOT have the Hollywood treatment! Here, Cleopatra comes alive with all of the surrounding history, culture, art and personalities that were so vital to her time and history. She was an amazing woman who in the Egypt of her times was able to be all that she set out to achieve. Her power, her talents, her education and her abilities were able to come to the forefront in a period of time when women were usually pushed into the background and forgotten except as wives and mothers.

Her education in particular and her ability in speaking multiple languages allowed her to enter various worlds in which she negotiated, engaged in commerce and walked among the men who were in power, not only as an equal, but far above many of them.

The only reason I gave this book four stars and not five, is that it bogs down in the middle with too much minutiae and makes the book slow going for quite a few pages. I was rewarded by staying "with it" and it picked up again.

Stacy Schiff did a magnificent job of truly describing Cleopatra, both on a physical and intellectual level. I learned so much about this remarkable women and the times in which she lived.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
Viviann, August 6, 2012 (view all comments by Viviann)
I love it. History made easy with juicy gossip about other writer's perspectives as well as Cleopatra herself, and reliable notes to back it all up.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
View all 17 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780316001922
Subtitle:
A Life
Author:
Schiff, Stacy
Author:
Bosworth, Patricia
Publisher:
Little Brown and Company
Subject:
Historical - General
Subject:
Women
Subject:
Ancient - Egypt
Subject:
Entertainment & Performing Arts
Subject:
Biography-Historical
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
20101131
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Two 8-page b/w inserts
Pages:
576
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in 0.99 lb

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Related Subjects

Biography » Historical
Biography » Women
Featured Titles » General
Featured Titles » History and Social Science
Featured Titles » NYT Ten Best Books » 2010
History and Social Science » Western Civilization » Ancient Rome
History and Social Science » World History » Ancient History
History and Social Science » World History » Ancient Near East
History and Social Science » World History » Classical

Cleopatra: A Life Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$10.50 In Stock
Product details 576 pages Little Brown and Company - English 9780316001922 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

I'm rather sure that all three of Stacy Schiff's previous works have been nominated for some award or another. With a pedigree like that, you know that her latest biography is bound to be a must-read. Stripping away all the previous misconceptions about this fascinating queen, Schiff dazzles us with another Cleopatra: a canny, capable, and charismatic ruler working against the tide to preserve her nation. A riveting and compelling read. Recommended for all and any history buffs.

"Review" by , "[A] page-turner...even more extraordinary than the more fanciful legend. Cleopatra emerges as a groundbreaking female leader, relying on her wits, determination, and political acumen rather than sex appeal to astutely wield her power in order to get the job done. Ancient Egypt never goes out of style, and Cleopatra continues to captivate successive generations."
"Review" by , "A Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer presents a swift, sympathetic life of one of history's most maligned and legendary women....Successfully dissipating all the perfume, Schiff finds a remarkably complex woman — brutal and loving, dependent and independent, immensely strong but finally vulnerable."
"Review" by , "Schiff showcases her skill at capturing a life. Her prose is elegant but easy to read and briskly paced....Undergraduates, lovers of biography or ancient history, and those seeking an introduction to Cleopatra will delight in this take on the near-mythical last queen of Egypt."
"Review" by , "What makes the book so compelling is Schiff's masterful evocation of broader questions....Schiff does not flinch from her incestuous and murderous family history, but this account, pieced together with modern methods and sensibilities, makes for fascinating reading."
"Review" by , "Taking Cleopatra's political goals seriously, Schiff reanimates her as a living, breathing woman: utterly extraordinary, to be sure, but recognizably human."
"Review" by , "Schiff is at her best in conveying the physical lushness of Cleopatra's exotic world with its glittering sun and sand....Mixing contemporary sources, beautiful writing and psychological insight, Schiff makes us empathize with the heroine of this tale of togas, territorial conquest and hot love."
"Synopsis" by , Her palace shimmered with gold but was richer still in political and sexual intrigue. Cleopatra, the wealthiest ruler of her time and one of the most powerful women in history, was a canny political strategist, a brilliant manager, a tough negotiator, and the most manipulative of lovers. Although her life spanned fewer than forty years, it reshaped the contours of the ancient world.

At only 18 years old, Cleopatra was already one of history's most remarkable figures: the Queen of Egypt. A lethal political struggle with her brother marked her early adulthood and set the tone for the rest of her life; a relationship with Julius Caesar, forged while under siege in her palace, launched her into a deadly mix of romance and strategy; a pleasure cruise down the Nile followed, a child, and a trip to Rome, which ended in Cleopatra's flight. After Caesar's brutal murder, she began a nine-year affair with Mark Antony, with whom she had three more children. Antony and Cleopatra's alliance and attempt to forge a new empire spelled both their ends.

The subject of gossip and legend, veneration and speculation in her lifetime, Cleopatra fascinated the world right up to her death. In the 2000 years since, myths about the last Queen of Egypt have been fueled by Shakespeare, Dryden, and Shaw, who put words in her mouth, and by Michelangelo, Delacroix, and Elizabeth Taylor, who put a face to her name. In Cleopatra, Pulitzer prize-winning biographer Stacy Schiff accomplishes a feat that has eluded artists and writers for centuries: capturing fully the operatic life of an exceptionally seductive and powerful woman, whose death ushered in a new world order.

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