A Life

Large Print - 2010
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The Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer brings to life the most intriguing woman in the history of the world: Cleopatra, the last queen of Egypt. Though her life spanned fewer than 40 years, it reshaped the contours of the ancient world.
Publisher: New York : Little, Brown and Co., 2010.
Edition: Large print edition.
ISBN: 9780316120449
Characteristics: viii, 619 pages (large print), 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm


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OPL_AnnaW Dec 20, 2019

The basic sketches of Cleopatra's life are known by many, however the extent of her political skills, intelligence, and real influence are not. This book is incredibly well-researched yet highly readable - recommended if you like books about powerful women, the allure of mythology, or history.

Sep 18, 2019

The book wasn't bad. Just seemed a bit surface level history for me.

Nov 17, 2018

I listened to the audio book.

I don’t know anything about this time period. IF the book has a cast of characters, I recommend getting that. Since there’s lots of Caesars, cleopatras, Ptolemy, and other names that are unfamiliar...I had a hard time figuring out who was who.

Time wise, the author bounces around. I would have preferred a chronological order so I could follow along better. Maybe in written form she provides the Lead, then the background story...but in audio form, it’s a little confusing.

She writes of the killing of Caesar, but doesn’t mention Brutus or Cassius.

At one point the author mentions that Caesar changed up the Roman calendar, but fails to mention that soon after his death, July (Julius) was re-named in his honor and later, August was re-named for Augustus. These are historical tidbits that I like to learn (and surprisingly, I learned from Eddy Izzard).

Nov 13, 2018


ACCURACY: I really liked this book. It provided me with better information than that from Wikipedia. Stacy Schiff does a good job explaining possible motives and actions that occurred by drawing from what we know and what people like Plutarch knew. However, as a result, the book relies heavily on secondary sources, seeing as there are practically no primary sources. This means that the Roman historian’s view is tainted by Roman propaganda, something that Schiff makes sure to mention. There is also the problem of timeline. Schiff does not provide you with a timeline of events, which means that if you want to know a timeline of Cleopatra you have to mark every event yourself, and even then some events, such as the death of Cicero, are not specifically dated.
Another thing that annoys me only a little bit is that Stacy Schiff hasn’t studied classics at school. I feel pretty sure that having an education built on the history that Cleopatra was living in and around would help.
RECOMMENDATION: While this book is good, it does have a few issues, though not all are through fault of the author. I would recommend reading it but if it is being used for academic purposes one should definitely find more sources and compare them, along with reading translations of the primary sources themselves. 3 out of 5. 70% fresh.

Jan 21, 2018

Was an interesting read, although sometimes was bogged down by similar names and the mixed marriages and marriages of convenience. The book was missing a genealogy chart of names, families and historic people of the time, which would have been helpful to keep track of timelines etc.
However, overall I found this book to be of interest and informative of a time that i did not know that much about, except for the early Secondary School teaching of the Roman Empire and reading of Julies Caesar by Shakespeare.
The book does tell in detail of a composite portrayal of Cleopatra, of which details of her life are largely is muddled, as for lack of confirmed portrayals (except on some Roman coins paired with Anthony), and unbiased writings (depending upon the victor and looser of the time).
Cleopatra (79/69 BC - 30 BC), of Macedonoian decent, was considered well educated (as was the wealthy women of Egypt at the time) spoke many languages and had more personality than beauty.
In the 5th Century, there was an earthquake that changed the coastal region of Alexandria, Egypt causing it to slide into the water and the Nile has changed course since that time, changing the geography from that time to the present.

multcolib_susannel Mar 19, 2017

The compelling story of this famous queen of the ancient world whose loves and politics were far from ordinary.

Oct 22, 2015

Completely fascinating. The first 50 pages or so has some lineage background that I thought was interesting, but might make some people conclude the book is dull. But just get past that beginning and you get a detailed portrayal of a woman ruling the mighty nation of Egypt for an unusually long period of time. She had affairs with Julius Ceasar and Mark Anthony. She had political dealings with Herod in the decades before Jesus was born, so you get to see the geopolitical stage set for New Testament biblical events. I loved getting a picture of what the extraordinary city and library of Alexandria were like at that time.

Jun 29, 2015

New perspective on history through the lens of biography.

Feb 03, 2015

I can respect that the Cleopatra has been maligned over the years, but the author seemed so desperate to undo this that it sometimes got in the way of her writing.
For example, she heavily implies that the reason Caesar was fought so hard for Alexandria was because he was so smitten with her, but several pages earlier notes that Alexandria was obscenely wealthy and could feed all of Rome quite easily. Both seem like great reasons to be invested in a nation's war of succession...

Dec 08, 2014

It's as if you are right there. Cleopatra was a shrewd politically savvy leader. Ahead of her time an understatement. Thoroughly researched, well written, un-boring historical.

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Mar 14, 2011

Really awfull. This is a book in search of an editor. The sentences are very awkwardly constructed, so it is very slow and difficult to read. Overuse of parenthetical phrases and dashes add to the problems. Sad, because there is a lot of interesting information here-just not really a pleasant read. I kept wanting to get out my red pen the whole time I was reading it!

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