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The Memoirs of Cleopatra

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Bestselling novelist Margaret George brings to life the glittering kingdom of Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile, in this lush, sweeping, and richly detailed saga. Told in Cleopatra's own voice, this is a mesmerizing tale of ambition, passion, and betrayal, which begins when the twenty-year-old queen seeks out the most powerful man in the world, Julius Caesar, and does not end until, having survived the assassination of Caesar and the defeat of the second man she loves, Marc Antony, she plots her own death rather than be paraded in triumph through the streets of Rome.
Most of all, in its richness and authenticity, it is an irresistible story that reveals why Margaret George's work has been widely acclaimed as "the best kind of historical novel, one the reader can't wait to get lost in."

1139 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1997

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About the author

Margaret George

56 books2,666 followers
Margaret George is a rolling stone who has lived in many places, beginning her traveling at the age of four when her father joined the U.S. diplomatic service and was posted to a consulate in Taiwan. The family traveled on a freighter named after Ulysses' son Telemachus that took thirty days to reach Taiwan, where they spent two years. Following that they lived in Tel Aviv (right after the 1948 war, when it was relatively quiet), Bonn and Berlin (during the spy-and-Cold-War days) before returning--at the height of Elvis-mania--to Washington DC, where Margaret went to high school. Margaret's first piece of published writing, at the age of thirteen, was a letter to TIME Magazine defending Elvis against his detractors. (Margaret has since been to Graceland.)

But it was earlier in Israel that Margaret, an avid reader, began writing novels to amuse herself when she ran out of books to read. Interestingly, the subject of these was not what lay around her in the Middle East, but the American west, which she had never set foot in. (Now that she lives in the American Midwest she writes about the Middle East!) Clearly writing in her case followed Emily Dickinson's observation "There is no frigate like a book" and she used it to go to faraway places. Now she has added another dimension to that travel by specializing in visiting times remote from herself.

Neither of these horse sagas got published, but the ten-year-old author received an encouraging note from an editor at Grosset & Dunlap, telling her she had a budding talent but should work on her spelling.

It was also in Israel that Margaret started keeping land tortoises as pets, an interest which she still follows today. She had a great affinity for animals and nature and that led her to a double major at Tufts University in English literature and biology. Following that she received an MA in ecology from Stanford University--one of the earliest departments to offer such a concentration. Today she is active in environmental and animal conservation groups.

Combining her interests led her to a position as a science writer at the National Cancer Institute (National Institutes of Health) in Bethesda, Maryland for four years.

Her marriage at the end of that time meant moving, first to St. Louis, then to Uppsala, Sweden, and then to Madison, Wisconsin, where she and her husband Paul have lived for more than twenty years now. They have one grown daughter who lives in California and is in graduate school.

Through all this Margaret continued to write, albeit slowly and always on only one project at a time. She wrote what she refers to as her 'Ayn Rand/adventure novel' in college and her 'Sex and the City' novel in Washington DC. It was in St. Louis that she suddenly got the idea of writing a 'psycho-biography' of Henry VIII. She had never seen such a thing done but became convinced the king was a victim of bad PR and she should rescue his good name. Her background in science meant that only after thoroughly researching the literature and scholarship on Henry VIII would she embark on the novel itself. She sought the guidance of a Tudor historian at Washington University for a reading list, and proceeded from there.

It was actually fourteen years between her initial idea and the publication of The Autobiography of Henry VIII. The book made an impression for several reasons: first, because no one had ever written a novel sympathetic to the king before; second, because it covered his entire life from before birth until after his death, making it almost a thousand pages long, and third, because it was so fact-filled.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,327 reviews
Profile Image for Joe Valdez.
499 reviews855 followers
March 12, 2021
The Year of Women--in which I'm devoting 2021 to reading female authors only--continues with The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George. Published in 1997, this is somehow the longest book that I’ve ever tried to read and only Isis can explain why. George writes with a very accessible and at times effervescent first person voice. There are no block paragraphs devoted to table settings or grain storage. Characters are introduced economically. I was able to tolerate the novel despite its lack of a strong narrative and yet after reading for days, I’d see my Kindle meter budge from 14% to 18%. I finally abandoned this at the 45% mark.

Everything you need to know about the book is there in the title. If you have a curiosity about Egyptology or one of the most powerful female rulers in history, this might be a good starting point, particularly at the high school level. The prose is accessible. I say “starting point” because my bullshit detector was on high alert throughout this book. Historical fact seemed to be bent here at the service of trying to tell a good story. For example, I’m uncertain whether Cleopatra was actually in Rome on the Ides of March and helped recover Julius Caesar’s body, or this was dramatic license. This book was so long that I didn’t have the energy to consult Google as I went along.

The Memoirs of Cleopatra would’ve been a 2.99 star read right down the middle for me. I was neither bored nor thrilled. I learned about the geopolitics of antiquity and I questioned how much was accurate. I didn’t fall asleep reading it nor did I finish reading it. If I had a child interested in learning about heads of state who’ve been women, I’d direct them to the Netflix series The Crown, which is a way more compelling dramatization of a monarch (Queen Elizabeth II) learning to govern following the death of the king. By comparison, this novel is sort of just there. And there. And there and there and there.

Margaret George was born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1943. Her father joined the U.S. Foreign Service when George was 4 and over the next nine years she hopped from Taiwan, Israel (Tel Aviv) and Germany (Bonn and Berlin) before returning to Washington D.C. to attend high school. She worked as a science writer for four years at the National Cancer Institute. For the last thirty years, George and her husband have called Madison, Wisconsin home.

In the event you missed them: Previous reviews in the Year of Women:

Come Closer, Sara Gran
Veronica, Mary Gaitskill
Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys, Viv Albertine
Pizza Girl, Jean Kyoung Frazier
My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Ottessa Moshfegh
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, Fannie Flagg
182 reviews
February 11, 2008
Argh....this book needed a good editor. As with all of George's books, I get about half way in and begin to lose interest. While the historical detail is wonderful, it took the author 4 pages to say that Cleopatra took a swim.

Started the book in Egypt in December and had to put it down for a while.
Profile Image for Marquise.
1,750 reviews613 followers
April 14, 2018
3.5 stars, but I'm going to round it up to 4 because the enjoyment I got out of it outweighed the flaws.

The positives, to me, were:

The focus: It's a Cleopatra novel that is actually about Cleopatra. My major contention with other novels about the last Pharaoh is that they tend to emphasise too much on her liaisons with Caesar and Antony to the detriment of herself as a ruler. Cleopatra had a life of her own independent of these Roman men who, while certainly very important in her life, weren't the end all be all of her story. Another point, that's not a flaw, is that her story is placed within the larger narrative of the fall of the Republic, in which she had a role because of Antony's involvement in warring with Octavian, which is also just a part of her story and not all.

In this novel, Cleopatra is seen from childhood, long before anything Roman rolled into her Egyptian court life. She's seen as a child princess in a shaky position, seen struggling through the palace coups by her siblings, seen with Caesar and without, seen as a mother, as a ruler, as a big sister to young Ptolemy, etc. There's a lot of her later romance and marriage to Antony, too, and thankfully by then we've seen enough of her other facets already by the time he's in her life. The first person narration also helps in making it her tale, despite the pitfalls of using this style.

Portrayal of the main character: The common portrayal of the scheming temptress who lured powerful Romans into her den of Eastern sensuality and perdition is Augustan propaganda. That is, it's Octavian's version of Cleopatra, and he had motives for blackening her name despite her defeat at his hands. Unfortunately, that's the one that's persisted the most, even McCullough (the author of the best series on the Roman Republic, in my opinion) has resorted to this, and it's also seen in some measure even in famous Hollywood films that supposedly "romanticise" Cleopatra as a tragic figure, but that in reality do her a disservice with their weird notion of "positive" portrayal. The Cleopatra in George's novel is nothing like this, and curiously, that's one complaint I've seen thrown at this novel. Maybe people are too used to the Scheming Cleo image? Because I've not seen that the Cleopatra in this novel isn't scheming or calculating or manipulative even; she's all that. It's just that it's devoid of the lurid element that'd make it stand out as her main trait. She also makes mistakes, grave ones, but she's not framed as a blundering idiot for that.

As for the negatives, I'd say they were:

Editing, editing, editing: The book would've been greatly serviced by a more attentive editor. It reads as if the only editing done was by the author herself, who doesn't seem to have yet mastered self-editing at the time she wrote the novel. I won't say anything about the pace, because that's subjective: some readers like (or at least don't have trouble with) slow and ponderous storytelling, other readers can't stand it and abandon the book, and yet other readers can't differentiate between slow pace and deficient editing. I think the slow pace did fit the scope of the story, as it spans decades, and the storytelling style, as it's first person and uses the "personal memoir" technique, having Cleopatra write her own story in scrolls, and this style does lend itself to rambling, to overdescription, to detours, to digressions, etc. It's par for the course with first person narration. And it's those detours that needed editing the most; the pace itself is fine, and it's not there throughout, as some "scrolls" narrate at a quicker pace.

Historical mistakes: As usual, this is a point that's going to call History aficionados more. I don't throw a book at the wall for a minor mistake, nobody can know everything, and Margaret George does seem to have done her homework researching the period, to judge by her reasonings in the Author's Note by the end. Nonetheless, she let slip in a few. For example, she calls Gaius Octavius Thurinus by the name of Octavian one year before his posthumous adoption by Caesar that turned him into Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, a.k.a. Octavian.

Not that these kinds of blunders detract from the story necessarily. But it does bother me...

'Splainin': Some authors can't seem to resist the temptation to talk down to the readership and explain things to them that they think won't be understood or obvious to the readers without authorial intervention. And George's is the most annoying sort: she translates stuff that is so glaringly obvious that it's insulting she'd assume the reader needs an English equivalent right afterwards. And I'm not speaking of obscure words or phrases in Latin or Egyptian, in which case it'd be at least understandable, but of things like:
- When she has Mark Antony introduce himself, she "translates" his name side by side in the same sentence, in the vein of "I'm Marcus Antonius. Mark Antony."
- Same when making poet Virgil introduce himself at a party to Cleopatra. "Publius Vergilius Maro. Vergil."
- And again when his other fellow poet (and fellow Augustan lickspittle) Horace introduces himself to her: "Quintus Horatius Flaccus. I am called Horace."

Oh, sure. I'm Marie-Hélène, and my name is sooo exotic that you'd never guess it's Mary-Ellen in English! You see what I mean. It's an unnatural way of speaking, and it's not like nobody would know, since their Latin names aren't so outlandishly different that the anglicised version obfuscates the originals. And it's not only names that George overexplains, in some parts she can't resist telling about a historical bit of data instead of just weaving it into the narrative.

So, after all the above, I'm still giving this rating? Yes. I did enjoy the novel, and it was a welcome change from the usual portrayals of Cleopatra I've read to date. I still think Margaret George was a tad too generous with Mark Antony's character, because he doesn't emerge as so noble from the historical records as he does in this novel, even after lifting the veil of propaganda and political slander.
Profile Image for Kimberly.
1,004 reviews3 followers
October 5, 2011
Wow, I can't believe this book is over...I feel a sense of accomplishment for having finished it (it's really, really long) and a sense of loss that it's over. The writing is so beautiful and real that it isn't a stretch at all to imagine that Cleopatra wrote it herself. There are so many incredible sentences in this book I could write page after page of quotes. Some of my favorites: "Always carry a limited gold service with you, was my motto." and "When fate offers you no choice you must appear to relish it." and "Goddesses do not grow old." Those are just quick samples of some sentences that made me smile. My only small complaint about this book would be the length, but, after thinking about it, this book would not have felt complete or like a true memoir if it was any shorter. By spending so much time with Cleopatra you really feel like you know her by the conclusion. And, you can't help but feel a dramatic sense of loss by the end even though you know it's coming. Knowing doesn't make her fate any less lamentable. 5 stars.
Profile Image for Emily Coffee and Commentary.
471 reviews155 followers
November 18, 2022
A colorful, all-encompassing interpretation of one of the most intriguing women in history. Through phenomenal research, we journey with Cleopatra through her triumphs, tragedies, loves, and betrayals. We see her not only as a queen, a goddess incarnate, but as a mortal woman, with faults and feelings, fantasies and failures. Romantic and reflective, we can ponder the accomplishments and ambitions of Cleopatra in a new light; this novel helps show us a side of her that is more than pure legend. Perfect for readers of in depth history.
Profile Image for Gary.
948 reviews208 followers
August 23, 2019
Of all works of fiction, this book certainly gives the most indepth account of the fascinating and tragic Queen of Egypt.

The author has clearly done extensive research and aquits this research well, in an entertaining and exteremly informative way.
Not only does she have an impressive array of books and documents that she studied before embarking on this work, but she travelled to Egypt, Rome, Israel and Jordan, and spent four years working on this epic.

The author explains that her sympathy is with Cleopatra, and that much of the documentation of her story, was compiled at the behest of her arch-foe Octavian, and that some of her enemies included writers and poets such as Cicero, Vergil, Horace, which assured that her version of events would be silenced and the accounts would be skewed against her.
The author explains that the popular modern idea that Cleopatra was unattractive is incorrect, and that the way that coins and statues were done in those days would have made her look less attractive certainly.

The author gives a credible explanation of the death of her second brother Ptolemy, from comsumption,and the truth is we do not know how he died, and there is no conclusive evidence that she did indeed have him murdered.
The book is not only a window into the lives of Cleopatra, Julius Ceasar, Mark Antony and Octavian, but also a portrait of the world of the time, taking us from Egypt to Nubia, Rome, Syria, Anatolia Judea, Armenia and Pathia.

George fills in with an amazing cast of Cleoptra's retinue, such as her chamberlain,the eunuch Mardian, her physician Olympos, and her brilliant Hebrew finance minister, Epaphroditus. The book begins with a fictional account of the rescue of the three year old Cleopatra from a sea accident in which her mother is drowned, Cleopatra's growing up in the Egyptian royal court of Alexandria, the schemes of her sisters Cleopatra and Berenice, the death of her father, the arrival of Julius Ceasar and the incident of her being smuggled to him in a rug, the battles with her siblings, the first Ptolemy and Arsinoe, her romances with Julius Ceasar and then Antony ,and the tragic and ill-fated defeat of Cleopatra and Antony, by the ruthless and scheming Octavian, which could so easily have gone the other way.
One finds oneselves biting ones nails at the end of the book, dealing with Cleopatra's captivity and her suicide.
A compelling novel, which I read in a week.

Filled with brilliant dialogue and description.
Profile Image for Amanda.
13 reviews3 followers
January 19, 2011
This book was a tradition for me to read each summer. I relished school getting out and lounging in the pool, day by day, and reading through these pages. It took the whole summer to read, too, because this book is a monster.

After graduating college, I stopped reading this book every summer. But I still pick it up time to time and read my favorite passages.

If you have any interest at all in Queen Cleopatra, you will love this book. However, if you're like me, after reading this book any other book about her will be ruined for you. Nothing really can compare with Margaret George's treatment of the subject - her research was exhaustive, and this certainly comes through with the level of detail in the text.

Not only that, George's writing style is exactly what you would imagine Cleopatra to feel, sound and be like. George really brings Cleopatra to life through the writing. By the time you get to the end and Cleopatra is dictating her final scroll, you've undergone this amazing journey with her through her life and you don't want it to end.

This book is definitely not to be missed... don't let the size of it intimidate you - you won't be disappointed!
Profile Image for Debbie W..
762 reviews570 followers
September 19, 2019
Although this edition is almost 1000 pages long, one would expect it to be daunting; however, it is an easy read, and I enjoyed learning about this fascinating woman in this context. Various settings are richly detailed throughout the book. The writing made me feel emotionally connected to Cleopatra as a woman - her thoughts and feelings towards those she loved. Lovers of royal historical fiction would relish this novel!
August 8, 2020
What is one person's diversion may be another's supreme test. (c)

Frankly, I've always disliked Cleopatra. Not actively disliked but I've always been wary of all the history hype that surrounds all of her time. Now, I think I just might start seeing her with different mind.

This one made me want to reread Spartacus. More review to follow.

I loved him so, even his past was precious to me. I found myself kissing each mark, thinking, I would have had it never happen, I would wish it away, taking him further and further back to a time when he had known no disappointments, no battles, no wounds, as I erased each one. To make him again like Caesarion. Yet if we take the past away from those we love - even to protect them - do we not steal their very selves? (c)
So I learned two things that night, and the next day, from him: the perfection of a moment, and the fleeting nature of it. (c)
Things do not happen, we must make them happen (c)
Profile Image for Pam.
88 reviews4 followers
August 20, 2014
This is my car book...what is a car book? The book I keep in my car for those occasions such as appointments, waiting or dining out alone, when I want a book to read. I have owned this book since November of 2006 and I am only, maybe, halfway through it...but I have loved savoring it in these short bursts. I have often thought of pulling it out of the car and reading it full stop, but then I think it would spoil the fun.

I love this book! First career was as an archaeologist, so I LOVE all the tiny details that are in this book. It makes for a fuller mental image, in my opinion. I think I will actually mourn the end of this book when I do finish it, as I have been reading it for so long...

I will probably buy another Margaret George book for my next car book!
Profile Image for Paul Weiss.
1,252 reviews235 followers
June 4, 2023
Where were those editors when they were most needed?

A biographical novel re-creating the entire life of an enigmatic, yet colourful, ambitious, conniving and flamboyant character such as Cleopatra embellished and fleshed out with fictional anecdotes and details to bring an enormous cast of characters to life cannot help but be long in the telling. The problem is compounded, of course, when the cast includes a list of players such as Julius Caesar, Marc Antony, Octavian and Herod, King of Judea, each of whom is larger than life and worthy of a biography in their own right. Now, any lover of books knows that long need not of necessity be tedious but, frankly, even George's first-rate story telling abilities were simply not consistent enough or compelling enough to render this novel enjoyable for its excessive 1000 page length.

Oh, it had its exciting moments, to be sure - the high speed running sea battle with the Mediterranean pirates off the coast of Sicily; the final epic confrontation with Octavian at Actium; Cleopatra's heart-rending grief and the conflicting surge of her searing anger and dismay at the moment of Caesar's assassination; the crystal clear depiction of her character as a strong-willed, self-centered woman who was willing to risk all to further her ambitions and to protect the birthright of her son - but these moments were separated by intervals that were so wide as to render the book a tedious, difficult novel to complete with only sporadic rewards for those who persevered.

On the plus side, George injected her story with plenty of entertaining and informative historical aside raising questions that would certainly serve as fodder for interesting, thought-provoking discussion on a wide variety of topics germane even to this very day. Two examples in particular stood out for me.

This excerpt on the religious beliefs of the Egyptians of the day:

"Together Osiris, Isis, and Horus live as the holy family, a blessed three. The birth-chapel commemorated the miraculous birth of the child. Across the water from Philae, on the neighboring island of Biggeh, part of Osiris lay buried, and every ten days a golden statue of Isis was ferried over in a sacred barque to visit her divine spouse.",

would probably cause a modern Christian to pause, scratch his head and muse at the common appearance of the concept of Trinity.

As Cleopatra waited for news of Antony's exploits in Parthia, she thought:

"The Queen in me yearned for his victory, and prayed for that; the wife feared he would not return alive, and begged Isis only for his life. I was both the Spartan wife, saying, 'Return with your shield or on it,' and the Egyptian wife saying, 'Only return - even without the shield.'"

It occurred to me to wonder what the modern spouse says about their partner who has chosen a career in the military. Are they thinking in terms of honour, valour, career, survival, service to their country??

THE MEMOIRS OF CLEOPATRA was a rewarding, informative and interesting novel but an intimidating, time-consuming, slog of a read that took will-power and dedication to complete. Recommended for those that enjoy ancient history, but only just!

Paul Weiss
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
9 reviews6 followers
October 22, 2011
I wouldn’t have thought it possible to make the reign of Queen Cleopatra dull, but that’s exactly what Margaret George has achieved in The Memoirs of Cleopatra, a 900+ page hair-puller of a novel. Books like this make me wish I wasn’t a Finisher. I wish I had mastered the art of abandoning a novel halfway through, but, alas, once I start a book, I’m committed.

Not that Memoirs is a total loss. I set out to read it wanting to learn more about Queen Cleopatra’s reign and I’ve certainly done that. The book is packed to the gills with information. Unfortunately, it’s also overloaded with dull, pedantic sentences, such as: “It was time for Saturnalia again, that holiday celebrating license. I understood it a little better now; it seemed to have something to do with Saturn … ” (pg. 320) so it’s hard to get real worked up about the experience.

Each section reads like a 5th grader’s five-paragraph essay on some aspect of Cleopatra’s reign: “This happened. And then this happened. And this was how I felt about it.” There were a few chapters, in the first third of the book, where George insisted on saying (on what seemed like every other page) that loyalty was the trait Queen Cleopatra valued most, and betrayal the sin she detested most of all. (I understood you the first time, Margaret!) Even scenes such as Caesar’s death in the Senate failed to strike any kind of emotional chord. Indeed, George glosses over the moment completely, preferring to focus on a bizarre, fictitious scene in which Cleopatra spends the first few minutes after she’s heard of the incident comforting the messenger boy who told her about it.

The relationship between Caesar and Cleopatra, as recounted by George, also wasn’t something I entirely understood. In George’s version, Caesar comes across as an abusive, manipulating jerk. For all I know, this may well have been the historical case. However, George’s Cleopatra fails to feel any kind of meaningful qualms about Caesar’s behavior. She behaves more like a lovelorn slave girl than the intelligent, savvy Queen we all know from history. And whenever Cleopatra and Caesar make love in the story, it’s the same. Damn. Scene. Every. Single. Time!

George describes Caesar as being quick and inventive, on both the battlefield and in bed, but her prose are anything but. Skip this unforgivable read and pick up your old high school history book. It’s bound to be more fresh, invigorating, and inventive.
Profile Image for Debbie Zapata.
1,833 reviews44 followers
June 14, 2020
I think my timing was off for trying to read this book. I thought it would be a wonderful escape from our real world; after all, what could be further away from all of this mess than Egypt in Cleopatra's time?

But I noticed problems right away. Of course I kept picturing Cleopatra looking like Liz Taylor. I know they didn't look anything near similar, but when you've seen the movie a zillion times, your brain has images it can't erase with mere words.

I read up to about page 300 when I realized I was bored with the story. I know, I know, that sounds horrible, but I can't help it. I wasn't bothered by the length of the book, or by the slow pace and the many Michener-like details. That is to be expected when an author is covering such a subject. But somehow or other, during one of the many trips up or down (or both) along the Nile, I simply could not take any more.

I'll give the book to my mother and might return to it someday. But meanwhile, I'm going to see if I can find my escape in Argentina.

DNF at around page 300.

Profile Image for Leila.
442 reviews212 followers
July 22, 2014
An interesting and well written book. I enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Tania.
1,234 reviews286 followers
September 12, 2014
We use what we have, and I have been blessed indeed by what fate has send my way.

This was an amazing book about an extraordinary woman. I am intimidated by big books (this one was almost 1200 pages), as I am always scared that I'll get bored halfway through. This was definitely not a problem with The Memoirs of Cleopatra. I walked away feeling that I knew Cleopatra, Caesar, Marc Anthony, and that I had walked the streets of Alexandria and Rome.
The author writes beautifully, and I really appreciated the fact that she made these historical figures so human, and also that she downplayed events, with no unnecessary melodrama.
I can't remember when last I liked a protagonist so much. She was truly a phenomenal woman - she spoke eight languages, descended from the oldest royal house and ruled the richest country in the world. In this rendition of her life she is also kind, passionate and funny. I was touched by her love for two very different men, and how well Margaret George portrayed the love, balancing it with Cleopatra's ambition. Although I was thoroughly impressed with Caesar as a leader, I lost my heart to Marc Anthony.
I highly recommend this to anyone interested in Cleopatra, but also to anyone who enjoys well-researched and written historical fiction.

The Story: The mesmerizing story of Queen Cleopatra in her own words - from the young queen's earliest memories of her father's tenuous rule to her own reign over one of the most glittering kingdoms in the world - this is an enthralling saga of ambition and power. It is also a tale of passion that begins when the twenty-one-year-old Cleopatra, desperate to return from exile, seeks out the one man who can help her: Julius Caesar. And it does not end until, having survived the assassination of Caesar and the defeat of the second man she loves, Marc Antony, she plots her own death ...
Profile Image for Megan.
1,225 reviews71 followers
April 8, 2018
The April read for my Tome Topple challenge.

"Madness" has been known to be defined as "picking up a thousand page novel within a week of finishing another one". No regrets here, though. 😂

Admittedly, you need to be a certain type of reader to pick up this book. It's over 1,000 pages, and if that's not enough, George's novel is pretty slow paced. Not that there isn't any action, but there's an incredible amount of detail, and you need to be fairly patient.

Going into this, the only thing I knew about Cleopatra VII Ptolemy (besides her name), was the suicide by snake venom and her involvement with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. So safe to say, I was looking forward to finding out a lot more about her life. And boy, did I ever.

This covers Cleopatra's life from around the age of 3 years old to her death, with a bit of an epilogue after her suicide. And it was all there - her children, her Roman lovers, her feud with Octavian/Augustus and her badass queenship. Honestly, this was a woman who got shit done.

I'm not gonna lie though, this could have done with a bit (or maybe a lot) of editing. Some temple visits and some other interludes were a little bit unnecessary and kind of a bit boring? Which, I mean... it's a thousand pages already, let's try not to make this longer than it has to be.

That was probably the only negative I really had (although it's kind of a biggish one?), but apart from that, I really enjoyed this one, and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on another Margaret George in the future. 😊
Profile Image for Katarzyna Kuczynska.
72 reviews2 followers
April 11, 2021
Finished ... Took me a while.. . Starts with Cleopatra's childhood and this I found a little bit boring 50 pages of it. However now I understand why we had to know her as child (friendships, and family background, meeting Anthony for the first time, Rome -Egypt relationships). Be prepared for long, detailed\rich descriptions: ,Of everything.. (no surprise this book is so long). The historical background very detailed too: from letters to war strategies, and family tree of Cesar \Anthony. Cleopatra is shown as a very ambitious , and as a loving lover, wife and mother to four of her children.
Lover, betrayal, friendship , motherhood, disappointment, ambition, hope,....
Profile Image for Ashley.
14 reviews5 followers
January 7, 2009
FAVORITE book of all time. I would love to know Cleopatra.
Profile Image for Siv30.
2,385 reviews126 followers
May 20, 2016
מרגרט ג'ורג' אינה מאכזבת גם בספר הזה. מדובר בספר אפי בעל עושר עלילתי וחוויתי לקורא. מרגרט ג'ורג' ניחנה ביכולת מופלאה לצייר את הדמויות, האווירה, הטעמים והריחות של התקופה. התחקיר ההיסטורי שלה מרשים ומפעים והספר מרתק לכל אורכו למרות האורך הכמעט בלתי נסבל שלו. סיכמתי את החלקים השונים בספר וציינתי הערות על הדמויות ועל הנרטיב במקרה שהיו לי.

החלק הראשון - מתאר את ילדותה של קליאופטרה ואת נסיבות הפיכתה למלכה. הוא גם מתאר את המפגש עם יוליוס קיסר עד העזיבה שלו את מצרים לאחר 8 חודשים ששהה שם כעזר לדיכוי המרידה בזמן נסיון ההפיכה כנגדה וכנגד אחיה עם מות אביה. כשיוליוס קיסר עוזב לרומא , קליאופטרה בהריון ראשון שלה. הוא עדין נשוי לאישתו הרומאית והוא כ-בן 52. קליאופטרה צעירה, מצטיירת כתלותית ביוליוס ולמעשה על פי הנרטיב שמציירת מרגרט גורג, היא לא ניהלה את מצרים אף לא יום אחד, לא מבחינה צבאית ולא מבחינה פוליטית. מאחר וקראתי את הספר מאת סטייסי שיף, לא ברור לי אם העובדות האלה היסטורית נכונות. אני לא זוכרת אותה כאישה תלותית ואני זוכרת שהיא הצטיירה לי כאישה חזקה, שולטת, מניפולטיבית וחסרת מעצורים מבחינה שילטונית ולא רכרוכית. היא לא נרתעת מהוצאות להורג ומטיפול באויבים הפוליטיים שלה. אין לה חמלה עליהם ובוודאי שלא הרהורים על הצורך בחיסולם (לדוגמא של האחים שלה שהיתה מסורת בכדי למנוע יריבויות)

חלק שני - יוליוס קיסר עוזב את מצריים למלחמה שאחריה יחזור לרומא, וקליאופטרה נותרת מאחור בהריון. הוא לא מצהיר בפומבי על הקשר וההריון שלה ממנו והיא אכולת לבטים. כשהילד נולד היא קוראת לו קיסריון אחרי אביו אולם יוליוס במכתביו אליה מברך אותה על הילד שלה ולא שלהם. יוליוס נעדר כמעט שנה ממצרים וקליאופטרה מתמודדת רק עם טוען אחד לכתר שהוא מתחזה לאחיה תלמי שנהרג במרד נגד יוליוס. היא יוצאת לפרס שם היא פוגשת את המלכה ולאחר חיסול המתחזה המלכה מציעה לה ברית משותפת. קליאופטרה, למרות ספקותיה במערכת היחסים עם יוליוס מסרבת לצאת מחסות רומא ומחסותו של יוליוס. כשקליאופטרה חוזרת מהמסע ממתין לה זימון רשמי שלה ושל בנה לרומא למצעד הנצחון של יוליוס. במצעד הזה גם תושפל אחותה המורדת של קליאופרה ארסינואי. קליאופטרה נערכת למסע למרות הספקות המקננים בה ולמרות השמועות על מערכת יחסיו של יוליוס עם המלכה של מאוריטניה.

חלק שלישי - קליאופטרה מגיעה לרומא ונתקלת בעויינות של הציבור כלפיה. היא מתאכסנת באחוזתו הפרטית של יוליוס קיסר בתקווה שבמישור האישי הוא יכיר בה כזוגתו ובבנו ובמישור הפוליטי הוא יסייע לה להבטיח את מעמדה של מצריים כמדינת חסות אבל עצמאית. יוליוס קיסר לא ממהר לספק את תקוותיה במהירות. הוא לא מכחיש את הקשר שלו עם מלכת מאוריטניה, הוא שקוע בתככים הרומיים ונוסיף על כך שהעם ממש שונא את קליאופטרה ( בשלב מסויים הם אפילו מכנים אטתה זונה ) הוא נמצא במצב עדין ורגיש. גם ברמה האישית יוליוס נשוי ואינו רוצה להתגרש. קליאופטרה נאלצת לתמרן את יוליוס קיסר להכיר בבנו קיסריון. היא מתארגנת לחזור למצריים אך יוליוס מבקש ממנה והיא נשארת ברומא. למעשה על פי לוחות הזמנים בספר היא נשארה ברומא שנה וחצי בזמן שחשרת עננים מתגבשת מעל ראשו של יוליוס שבסוף ירצח. אין ספק שמרגרט גורג כישרונית ויש לה יכולת מופלאה להנגיש לקורא את האווירה, הצלילים הקולות של התקופה. מאידך, ישנם אי דיוקים היסטוריים שמשרתים את העלילה אבל אינם נכונים. יוליוס מעולם לא הכיר בקיסריון כבנו וגם ספק אם קליאופטרה נשארה שנה וחצי ברומא והשאירה את מצריים ללא שליט. חוסר הדיוק לא פוגם בהנאה מהספר. מאידך הסופרת מכניסה את דמותה של קליאופטרה לנעלי היועצת של יוליוס בצורה מצויינת ומשלבת אותה בפוליטיקה הרומאית בצורה מבריקה.

חלק רביעי - לאחר מותו של יוליוס קיסר, קליאופטרה ממתינה ברומא ולאחר שהעיניינים מתבהרים היא חוזרת למצרים. היא מגלה שהיא בהריון מיוליוס קיסר אבל הריון זה לא שורד, הילד נולד מוקדם ומת. לאחר שנתיים שבהן נעדרה ממצרים היא מגלה שהארץ משגשגת ומתנהלת על מי מנוחות אך עם חזרתה, תוקפת בצורת את המדינה והיא נאלצת לפתוח את האסמים. במקביל, מלחמות הירושה והנקמה ברוצחי יוליוס קיסר מתגלגלות לפתחה והיא נדרשת לשתף פעולה עם צדדים כאלה ואחרים למאבקים. היא מגלה שאוקטביוס חזר לרומא ודרש את ירושתו וכי הוא נכנס לעימות עם מרקוס אנטוניוס שעד אז נחשב ליד ימינו של יוליוס קיסר. היא שומרת עד כמה שהיא יכולה על נטראליות מבלי לסייע לאף אחד מהפונים אליה למרות שיש בכך סיכון פוליטי. בנתיים אחיה, לו היתה נשואה מת ממחלת ראות והיא מחליטה לבנות צי ימי מפואר מאחר והיא מודעת לחולשתם של הרומיים בים. 2 הפרקים האחרונים של החלק הרביעי מוקדשים למפגש עם מרקוס אנטוניוס, מפגש שיוליד את סיפור האהבה הידוע בהיסטוריה. הפרקים אלה מגלים את היכולות הפוליטיות של קליאופטרה שבגיל 27 היתה בשיא בשלותה ויופיה.

חלק חמישי - וואו עד כה זה החלק הטוב ביותר בספר הזלתי דמעה וליבי היה עם קליאופטרה, אישה אמיצה וחזקה ששלטה בתוך עולם של גברים. בחורף של שנת 40 - 41 לפנה"ס מגיע אנטוניוס למצרים וזאת לאחר המפגש שלו עם קליאופטרה בטרסוס. מפגש מרהיב המתואר בצורה חייה ומרשימה. קליאופטרה מנסה לשכנע אותו להפר את הטרימוורט עם אוקטביאנוס ולנצל את עושרה וכחה של מצריים בכדי לבסס את מעמדו הפוליטי ולהגן על ממלכתה. היא גם רוצה שישא אותה לאישה. הראיה הפוליטית שלה כל כך מדוייקת אבל אנטוניוס לא משתכנע וחושב שהיא עושה עליו מניפולציות רגשיות כך שהוא עוזב באביב 40 לפנה"ס את אלכסנדריה וחוזר לרומא בלי שהוא יודע שקליאופטרה בהריון ושהיא נושאת בבטנה תאומים. בספטמבר 40 לפנה"ס מגיע אנטוניוס להסכם שלום עם אוקטביאנוס, שהיה יריבו. במסגרת הסכם זה הוגדר תחום שליטת אנטוניוס במזרח. לחיזוק הברית ביניהם, נשא אנטוניוס לאשה את אוקטביה, אחותו של אוקטביאנוס. כשהחדשות מגיעות לקליאופטרה לבה נשבר בקרבה. לא רק שאנטוניוס סירב לשאת אותה לאישה כי היא מהמזרח, לא רק שהוא סירב להצעות הנדיבות שלה לסייע לו, הוא גם נישא לאחותו של אוקטביאנוס. בלידה מוקדמת קשה שבה היא כמעט מאבדת את חייה, היא יולדת את קליאופטרה סלנה (לכבוד הירח) ואת אלכסנדר הליוס (לכבוד השמש).

חלק שישי - ארבע שנים אחרי. מרקוס אנטוניוס קורא לקליאופטרה שוב. הוא שלח את אוקטביה ממחנה הצבא לקראת יציאתו למלחמה בפרתים. אוקטביה בהריון והיא נשלחת חזרה לרומא. קליאופטרה יוצאת אליו עם תנאים שהוא ינשא לה. יכיר בתאומים כילדיו ויתן לה שטחים כמתנת נשואים. מרקוס אנטוניוס מוכן לדרישותיה והם נישאים אך הוא לא מוכן להתגרש מאוקטביה שכן היא בהריון. קליאופטרה חוזרת לאלכסנדריה כשהיא שוב בהריון ממנו יוולד תלמי פילדלפיוס בשנת 36 לפני הספירה. 8 חודשים עוברים מאז שנפרדו ועד שקליאופטרה שוב מקבלת זימון ממרקוס אנטוניוס. הוא הפסיד הפסד צורב לפרתים ומלך ארמניה בגד בו ונמלט משדה הקרב. אוקטביאנוס לא שלח לו את 20,000 החיילים שהבטיח ללו בתמורה לכלי השיט שנתן לו מרקוס אנטוניוס וכ 42 אלף חיילים נטבחו בקרב. בעיצומו של חורף קליאופטרה יוצאת אליו עם מזון, זהב ובגדים לחיילים. כשהיא מגיעה אליו הוא במצב רע וכך גם 18 אלף החיילים שנותרו לו. ואז אוקטביה אישתו מציעה להגיע אליו עם מזון בגדים ו 2000 חיילים. קליאופטרה עוזבת את מרקוס אנטוניוס שצריך להחליט אם הוא חוזר לרומא או הולך למזרח. אחרי תקופת המתנה מרקוס אנטוניוס מגיע לאלכסנדריה לקליאופטרה. המאבק בין הנשים הוכרע אך לא המאבק עם אוקטביאנוס. קיסריון יוצא לבקר ברומא באופן לא פומבי והוא לומד על המורשת שלו בזמן שרופא המלכה מספר על הלכי הרוח של הרומאים ביחס למרקוס אנטוניוס, קליאופטרה ואוקטביאנוס שממצב את עצמו כאל. החלק נסגר בעימות של אוקטביאנוס עם קיסריון. בעימות מטיח אוקטביאנוס בקיסריון באופן שפל חצאי אמיתות ומעביר לקליאופטרה מסר שבו עליה לשחרר את מרקוס אנטוניוס מהתחייבויותיו כלפיה ולחדול מהאשליות שתשלוט ברומא באמצעות קיסריון. צעד די מביש בהתחשב בכך שאוקטביאנוס בן 27 וקיסריון רק ילד בן 12. לכנות את אמו פילגש ולעלוב בה שהוא ממזר חסר אב או בקיצור זונה, זה צעד לא מלכותי ולא אלילי בעליל.

חלק שביעי- מרקוס אנטוניוס יוצא לארמניה לנקום במלך שנטש את המערכה במלחמה נגד הפרתים. במקביל קליאופטרה יוצאת להליופוליס שם היא לנה במקדש האל רה, אל השמש. באווירה סוריאליסטית היא פוגשת את אחד מהכהנים שמסרב לחזות את עתיד הקשר שלה עם אנטוניוס ואת עתיד מצרים. הוא מכיר לה את המוות מנחשים ואז מתאבד. המשרתים בקודש אומרים לקליאופטרה שהוא נשבע למות לאחר שיראה את הפרעה האחרון של מצרים. מרקוס אנטוניוס חוזר מהקרב בארמניה כשבאמתחתו ניצחון. בחגיגות הניצחון הוא מכריז על קיסריון כיורש החוקי של יוליוס קיסר וממליך את ילדיו על שטחים רומאיים. הוא כותב צוואה שבה הוא מבקש להיקבר במצרים ליד אישתו האמיתית קליאופטרה ומצהיר שוב כי קיסריון הוא בנו האמיתי של יוליוס קיסר. אקטים אלה מובילים לחוסר שקט גובר ברומא ולהתקדמות לקראת מלחמה עם אוקטביוס. קליאופטרה ומרקוס אנטוניוס שמבינים שאין ברירה אוספים צבא יוצאים לאפסוס ולאחר מכן לפרגמון ולאתונה ביון. שם הם פוגשים קונסולים שגורשו מהסנאט בגלל תמיכתם במרקוס אנטוניוס. קליאופטרה מנסה ��שכנע את מרקוס אנטוניוס לפעול נגד אוקטביאנוס אבל הוא לא מוכן להזיז את חילותיו לא בים ולא ביבשה ומחכה לאוקטביאנוס שיתקוף אותו. מרקוס אנטוניוס עושה טעויות טאקטיות קשות הן במישור האישי כאשר הוא נתן ליחסיו ולתלות שלו בקליאופטרה ובהונה ליצור טריז בינו ובין נאמניו ושנים עורקים כשהם גונבים את צוואתו. הצוואה גורמת לאוקטבינוס לצאת בהכרזת מלחמה ברורה נגד מרקוס אנטוניוס אבל מרקוס אנטוניוס עדין לא מוכן להזיז את צבאו. היא גם גורמות לאי שקט ברומא ולנטישת המאמינים שעוד נותרו לו. היא גם גורמת לאי שקט של הציבור ולקריאות גנאי אותן מנצל אוקטביאנוס. אוקטביאנוס אינו מחדש את הטרימאוורט ועתה רומה נמצאת על סף מלחמת אזרחים חדשה. החלק מסתיים במצב רתיחה לקראת פיצוץ כאשר הכוחות של אנטוניוס וקליאופטרה מוצבים לקראת המפץ הגדול והם שולטים באחד הצבאות הגדולים ימית ויבשתית. קליאופטרה מתגלה במלוא כישרונה הצבאי, בעמידותה הנפשית בעולם שבו נוטרים לה על כך שהיא מצרית ובמלוא נשיותה וחוסנה וזאת לעומת מרקוס אנטוניוס שעושה טעויות טאקטיות, הוא משתכר בלי הכרה ויוצר טריז עם אנשיו.

חלק 8 - מרקוס אנטוניוס וצבאותיו מתכנסים באקטיום ומנגד צבאו של אוקטביאנוס. אבל אוקטביאנוס מסרב לצאת ולהילחם וצר על צבאו של אנטוניוס שהולך ונשחק, הולך ונמרט וסופג עריקות של מפקדים רומאיים חשובים. לבסוף כאשר מרקוס אנטוניוס מחליט לצאת בפעולה אקטיבית היא פעולת נסיגה דרך הים תוך שהוא מותיר את חיליו היבשתיים ללא שום הוראה להילחם או לסגת. לפני הנסיגה, צבאו של אנטוניוס משמיד את האוניות שבהן לא ישתמש ומטביע את יתרת הזהב שלא יוכלו לקחת איתם כדי שלא יפול בידי אוקביאנוס. מפקד הצי של אוקטביאנוס ידידו מהילדות, מרקוס אגריפה נלחם כל הלילה אבל צי האוניות של קליאופטרה הצליח להימלט ואיתה מרקוס אנטוניוס. החלק ה 8 מורט עצבים. גם בגלל ההמתנה שמרקוס אנטוניוס בהתעקשותו שלא לצאת בפעולה אקטיבית ולהמתין לתקיפה של אוקטביאנוס יצר וגם בגלל התנהלותה של קליאופטרה לאורך כל החלק הזה. היא מפגינה רגשי נחיתות בכל פעם שמישהו מערער על מקומה ולוחצת על מרקוס אנטוניוס כשברור שהוא לא מסוגל לפעול. היא חופרת, וההעלבויות שלה וההתקרבנות הזו ומנגד העובדה שהיא לא מצליחה להפנים את הקשר המיוחד שלו לרומא ולצורך שלו בכבוד ולרצות את העם הרומאי פשוט מעייפים. מרקוס אנטוניוס עושה טעויות טאקטיות אחת אחר השניה ואינו מקשיב לא למצביאים שלו ולא לקליאופטרה. הוא ממשיך להפנות את גבו לאנשים שמלווים אותו ומיעצים לו כמיטב הבנתם. לקראת סוף החלק קליאופטרה מפגינה אומץ בל ישוער, היא נאמנה ואמיצה אבל מרקוס אנטוניוס נמצא כבר כל כך עמוק בתוך היאוש שלו וגם אם היה אפשר להציל את המצב קליאופטרה אינה מצליחה להוביל אותו לעשות את הסוויץ' הזה ולהתקדם הלאה תוך שהוא מרים את עצמו.

זה אחד הפרקים העצובים בהיסטוריה של העולם המודרני בעיניי. מאחר שקראתי גם את הספר על אוגוסטוס אני יכולה לספר שחיו לא היו מאושרים, לא לפני ולא אחרי הקרב למרות התהילה שבה הוא זכה ולמרות התארים והכיבודים בהם זכה. הוא שלח את בתו לגלות בשל התנהגות לא מוסרית יחד עם נכדתו. בניה, אותם אימץ נהרגו אחד אחר השני ולא יכלו לרשת אותו. יחסיו עם ליוויה היו בגדר דטאנט מתמשך ויש חשד שהרעילה אותו. ירש אותו טיבריוס אותו ממש לא העדיף. בקיצור הוא לא ראה ברכה בחיו האישיים.

חלק 9 - כל החלק הזה עוסק בהכנה והמתנה להגעתו של אוקטביאנוס למצרים ולתנאים בהם מצרים תמסר לו. קליאופטרה מנסה לקנות מקום לבנה קיסריון ולהבטיח למצרים שקט ואי שפיכות דמים, המשך שנים של מלוכת בני תלמי אבל אוקטביאנוס מסרב לתת תשובה ברורה ואף מנסה לגרור אותה לבגוד באנטוניוס. קליאופטרה אינה הולכת שבי אחר העמעום והמעורפלות של אוקטביאנוס ומבטיחה לו להרוס ולהשמיד את האוצר הגדול שיכול לממן את חייליו. שוב קליאופטרה מתגלה במלוא גדולתה הפוליטית ועוצמתה לעומת מרקוס אנטוניוס שחוזר אחר שנעלם לאחר קרב אקטיום.

חלק עשירי-

הגראנד פינלה של הספר. מרקוס אנטוניוס וחייליו מצליחים להכות בחייליו של אוקטביאנוס בהפתעה, אך הדבר לא מסייע להם שכן ביום למחרת הרומאים נכנסים לעיר. מרקוס אנטוניוס מתאבד ובכוחותיו האחרונים חוזר למות בזרועות קליאופטרה. קליאופטרה אינה מצליחה לבצע את זממה להתאבד ולהכחיד את האוצר הגדול לפני שחייליו של אוקטביאנוס שמים את ידם עליה. יתרת החלק היא מאבק המוחות בין אוקטביאנוס לקליאופטרה שבסוף, כידוע מצליחה לקחת את גורלה בידיה ולהתאבד באמצעות נחשי קוברה. אוקטביאנוס רוצה לקחת את קליאופטרה לרומא למצעד השפלה אך היא מתכוננת למותה ולא תתן לו את התענוג להוליך אותה מבוזה ומופשלת ברחובות רומא

סיום עגום אך מפואר למלכה שהיתה אהובה על בני עמה, עשתה כל שביכולתה לשמר את מיצרים כמדינת חסות ולא פרובינציה של רומא, היתה אישה אוהבת, נאמנה ואמיצה שההיסטוריה עד היום זוכרת.

החלק האחרון נכתב ע"י אולימפוס שלא היה שותף במזימה של המלכה ועליו הוטל להעביר את ההיסטוריה שנכתבה ע"י קליאופטרה לעתיד.

Profile Image for Cheryl.
464 reviews605 followers
July 24, 2012
Great read, a page-turner. I thought that 900 pgs of historical fiction would make me gag, but the plot was well-developed, the story tight, and the writing good. A great love story written as if from Cleopatra herself.
Profile Image for Jeanette.
418 reviews47 followers
November 5, 2019
This is an epic novel of 944 pages ending with the Tenth Scroll of Cleopatra's life. Much has been told in books and movies of the adult life of this incredible woman, however the childhood of Cleopatra is what enticed me to read this book. The author creates a vivid picture of the life of this young woman destined initially to share through protocol the ruling of Egypt with her younger brother Ptolemy, 9 years old. Fourteen year old Cleopatra is aghast at the thought of marriage as was the tradition to this young "whining little tattletale".

Egypt and Rome are at the height of their powers, however Egypt is the sophisticated country with great monuments, pyramids, museums, city structures and trading alliances already in place, a country of great wealth and living in peace with its neighbours, while Rome has yet to establish itself on the building grandeur of a similar scale, rather Rome is a conquering nation intent on creating the largest ruling nation ever. However, it's Egypt's wealth and beauty along with the magnificent Cleopatra that acts as an all encompassing seductress for the Romans, Caesar and Mark Antony are both beguiled by it all. Egypt's price for its wealth and relative peace with Rome is a costly alliance with money pouring out of the treasury for Rome.

Apart from this overly detailed novel there are points of interest in particular for those who have travelled to this part of the world and to "Asia Minor", Turkey etc where the extent of the Greek and Roman power is still on display today, in many cases the Roman/Greek ruins superior to those in popular tourist countries of Europe, (the Romans tended to build on top of existing structures). Ephesus is a place where Cleopatra travels to with descriptions of its beauty still relevant today. However, Cleopatra is horrified with the interpretive sculpting of the goddess Artemis, fearful of it, leaves with Marc Antony making fun of her anxiety. The original Temple of Artemis was built about 550 BCE by King Croesus of Lydia however, the history of it being burnt or destroyed and rebuilt is amazing, a temple so revered. Ephesus was once listed as one of the seven wonders of the world and is also referred to in the Christian Bible.

The statue of Artemis (completely different from the Greek/Roman version) mentioned in the book,a discovery was made of her statue from Roman ruins, and is now held at the museum in Ephesus. The Temple of Artemis marvelled by Cleopatra, it's ruins are still visible in Ephesus, today.
Profile Image for Tracy.
585 reviews43 followers
October 15, 2017
Well, I gave this my best shot. I wanted to love this book, but at 28% I'm setting it aside. It just doesn't have much action. When it does I enjoyed it, but it is primarily long-winded descriptions of the environment. I like learning about these things, but I learn fast. When it goes on and on I find myself getting bored or even falling asleep. I've had several friends rave about this book and so out of respect to them I tried to carry on as long as I could. I'm just not having fun with it at this point so I'm going to move on....
Profile Image for Lukas Anthony.
328 reviews362 followers
January 1, 2013
WOW, this book truly feels like an accomplishment to complete. My edition totalled 1137 pages, which probably makes it the largest book I have ever read. I'm also sad that it's actually over too, as it was a surprisingly engrossing read.

I think my enjoyment of this novel was helped out by the fact that I knew very little of Cleopatra's life before reading, I knew of the basics of course. Her affairs with Caesar and Anthony, and her chosen form of death, but other than that I was completely ignorant. The writer does extremely well in creating ancient Egypt, in fact at times, it felt like if I was to magically appear there, that I would easily be able to find my way around. The descriptions were beautiful, the Nile, the Temples, everything was grand and well described.

If I have any criticisms, it is that certain points do become slightly repetitive. Cleopatra finds herself telling Anthony and Ceaser that she loves them many times, and from the Author's notes it's clear that those relationships have become a lot more romanticised, and the last two hundred pages are an agonising wait to the conclusion (but considering this is historically accurate that can't be helped)…but, overall it truly is a wonderful novel, I don't especially see myself reading it a second time but I can't recommend it enough.

I also have George's 'Helen of Troy' novel, so that will be in the to-read pile, although I think a break from historical fiction is due for a while.
Profile Image for Charlotte.
73 reviews2 followers
February 7, 2009
Whew! What a long book. This was my first foray into anything Cleopatran and I thought it was well worth it. I like long books, but this one was almost too long for me. Especially the last third of the book became very repetitive. How many times can she pine over Antony and worry about her children inheriting an Empire without sounding droll? Then again, it probably was an agonizing time of waiting for her - no emails or cell phone or AP newswire in those days to keep you informed.

I really got a sense of Egypt, and Alexandria as the New York of the Ancient World. I loved the descriptions of the Nile, Alexander's Tomb, Isis' Temple, etc. It was very transporting.

The character of Cleopatra was also very endearing. She was intelligent, feeling, capable, creative and bold. I say "the character" of Cleopatra because I have my doubts as to how realistic this might have been. Some of her actions were so selfish that I had a hard time squaring that away with the character I was becoming so fond of.
Profile Image for GG Stewart’s Bookhouse .
165 reviews23 followers
April 27, 2020
My goodness where to start, ironically I want to start at the end. Yes, the end is where all is brought out. The feelings of triumph, surprise, love, joy, sadness, and so many more feelings! I was so surprised by how much as a wife, mother, and women I could relate to Queen Cleopatra. The struggles of juggling so many roles and still having time to rule. This books brings to life someone who we would never be able to comprehend in any other way. It is a long book and yes at times I struggled but it was worth it.
Profile Image for Natasa.
1,203 reviews
April 7, 2019
This fictional account about Cleopatra was well researched and included many details that few know. It is a work of fiction and to make a story, one has to take liberties. Overall, it was well done, given the many sources that provide conflicting opinions. 
Profile Image for Misfit.
1,637 reviews289 followers
August 20, 2008
But still a very good read. Very well written and researched story about an incredibly fascinating, intelligent, courageous and loving woman, a brilliant politician, but above all that a Queen. There are times when the book drags on a bit, with long descriptions of feasts, the court and court life and the business of running the country, but when she met up with Caesar (sp?) and then again with Marc Anthony things really started to cook, especially the final heartbreaking moments at the end. The author did an excellent job of portraying these two great men, Caesar and Marc Antony, particularly Antony, a flawed but ever so fascinating man.

All in all a great book to read once, but not one I will keep on the shelf to read again and again due to some of the repetition and lengthy descriptions of the life of a monarch, hence only 4 stars. Don't misunderstand me, it was an excellent book and I'm glad I read it and the story of such a great woman and queen, but it's one of the few books that once I've finished I have no desire to read again and again.
Profile Image for Brittany B..
299 reviews4 followers
February 9, 2013
5 Stars + This is beyond so far beyond most books that 5 stars isn't nearly enough...

In a class by itself, I fell in love with Cleopatra and learned more ancient history than I did in school. Truly extraordinary. Margaret George is THE FINEST AUTHOR of historical fiction. I wasn't even interested in Cleopatra, but George opened my eyes to a true goddess on earth.

The research George did for the book is unbelievable, but it is placed so seamlessly into the story that you hardly realize what it took to write this masterpiece!!!

You will fall in love with Egypt, Alexandria and the legendary Cleopatra!

Ps- I rave about Margaret George's The Autobiography of Henry VIII: With Notes by His Fool, Will Somers. Check that one out too. Two of the best books I've ever read!!
Profile Image for Marie.
Author 2 books22 followers
July 16, 2014
For my complete review, visit my blog: http://alivrouvert.tumblr.com/post/91...

Can we give more than 5 stars to a book? was the first thing I thought when I finished this wonderfully-written book. During half a month, The Memoirs of Cleopatra by [author: Margaret George) made me travel in different places like Ancient Rome, Alexandria (Egypt) and even Nubia and gave me the opportunity to encounter Cleopatra (of course), Caesar, Marc Antony… Written in the first person like an autobiography, we follow the famous Cleopatra from her childhood to her suicide.
Margaret George brought Cleopatra to life, and I think she deserved that, after all that had been said. The author portrayed her as a wise and intelligent ruler, a woman preoccupied with her people’s sake and in love with her beautiful city (Alexandria, and finally a mother. I will read this book again, for sure.

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