|A coin with the image of Cleopatra|
Our discussion last night was over the book Cleopatra, a Life by Stacy Schiff. We skipped over the book group part where we all catch up and immediately jumped into the book. At first we were marveling over the significance of Cleopatra and her story. For those of us who were uninformed it was an eye opening read to learn how integral she was in the Caesar / Mark Anthony era. My image of her was similar to Helen of Troy, someone you hear about but don't really know any details.
We were impressed that at the time of her reign her gender was a non-issue and the fact that she had children by multiple fathers also didn't seem to bother her people. She taxed the heck out of everyone and yet was liked.
We agreed with (a missing Melinda) that at times it felt like the Cleopatra story line was secondary to the drama unfolding in the Roman Empire. We attributed that a bit to the availability of historical reference material. The "doings" in the RE are well documented while the historical artifacts from Alexandria were largely lost and thus many things are speculation. The author did not take liberties and describe scenes, moods and conversations that she could not be privy too. Thank you!
In discussing the tone of the book we wondered what an author like Doris Kerns Goodwin could do with the same subject matter. We agreed that Ms. Goowin's historical offerings tend to "put you in the room" with the action more than Ms. Schiff's book. However, we do acknowledge that it would be a lot easier to write about Theodore Roosevelt or the Kennedy's because of the availability of their schedules, writings, and the documents that others who were in the room provided.
We felt that the second half of the book flowed better and was far more intriguing. The first half read like a college history book. In fact, one of our members had to spend the day with her daughter in the car on an unexpected road trip, so she downloaded the audio book and the daughters response was that mom was reading a history book. We enjoyed the book, but personally I think it is great torture for the teen to have to endure mom's book.
Our understanding of the era has increased and individuals whom we knew little about have become clearer. Herod - bad guy. Mark Anthony - love sick warrior.