Cleopatra

Cleopatra - H. Rider Haggard Read this on my Kindle from a file on the Internet Archive (I think). As these things go, it wasn't a bad scan. As for the novel itself, great fun, and most likely an extremely unreliable source of information about things Ancient Egyptian! As usual with literature of this period, the attitude towards women is infuriating, in entirely predictable ways, and Cleopatra's power is ascribed entirely to preternatural beauty (a notion that contemporary portraits tend to discredit). The first person narrator is an interesting one - a fictional rival for the throne, from the older, more ancient culture, who worship the older gods like Isis. Harmachis is trained up at great length to insinuate himself into Cleopatra's palace, assassinate her, and take power. Unfortunately, he makes the mistake of falling for her; it's a double mistake because Cleopatra - who has distinct similarities to Elizabeth I - doesn't fully give her heart away to anyone, though she comes closest with Mark Anthony. There's a secondary female character, Charmion (is that an Egyptian name? edited to add: it's Greek, and was the name of one of Cleopatra's attendants according to Plutarch) who manages to push the plot along with her jealousies and emotions. The highlight from the teenage male perspective (always Haggard's primary audience) would be the grave-robbing scene, where Harmachis and Cleopatra break into an ancient Pharaoh's tomb, and remove the jewels that are quite literally embedded in his corpse. Were Haggard a modern author, I would accuse him of writing for the screen at that point in his narrative! Truly ghoulish, especially the detail of a massive bat that attaches itself to the face of a murdered guard. Anyway, lots of page-turning plot, and not too much sappy stuff, so the teenage boy reader in me had a great time with this one!