Friday, May 6, 2016

CLEOPATRA


Review of CLEOPATRA: A LIFE by STACY SCHIFF
(review based on an audiobook, read by ROBIN MILES)

Cleopatra is an iconic figure, but most people don’t know the distinction between legend and history. Foremost, we portray Cleopatra as a manipulative seductress. While the facts do suggest Cleopatra had a distinct charm and political prowess, records suggest her mind was a much stronger weapon than her body. In fact, many accounts comment that Cleopatra wasn’t actually that attractive. Her beauty came from her personality and intelligence.

I loved this biography, but can acknowledge that it won’t be for everyone. For one thing, it’s rather dry, focusing on dates and names especially at first. For another, it contains a lot of speculation on various possibilities where we simply don’t know the real truth. Last, this is really geared more towards people who know very little about Cleopatra. While no expert myself, nothing in this book took me by surprise. Perhaps some specifics, but overall it’s all what I have already read or heard about Cleopatra.

A big part of why I nevertheless found the audiobook so engrossing was the voice. Miles has a fantastic reading voice: clear and articulate with the right amount of subtle, well-timed inflection that avoids any monotone-feel. It felt like listening to a good friend go on and on about a passion. I can’t say for certain exactly how to divide the credit between Miles’ voice and Schiff’s words, but regardless the passion is contagious.

While some readers may prefer something a little more revolutionary in content, this is an exceptional, in-depth biography of a remarkable woman.

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