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Cleopatra (Schiff) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews 
[C]aptivating...a cinematic portrait of a historical figure far more complex and compelling than any fictional creation, and a wide, panning, panoramic picture of her world.... Ms. Schiff seems to have inhaled everything there is to know about Cleopatra and her times, and she uses her authoritative knowledge of the era—and her instinctive understanding of her central players—to assess shrewdly probable and possible motives and outcomes.... Ms. Schiff also demonstrates a magician's ability to conjure the worlds her subject inhabited with fluent sleight of hand.
Michiko Kakutani - New York Times


If you think two millennia of dusty research and hoary legend have told us all we need to know about this woman, you're in for a surprise. Stacy Schiff...has dug through the earliest sources on Cleopatra, sorted through myth and misapprehension, tossed out the chaff of gossip, and delivered up a spirited life...for all its splendor of detail, Schiff's book is a model of concision, and its brisk, vividly written chapters move with a swiftness the Nile never enjoyed...a great, glorious spree of a story.
Marie Arana - Washington Post


Startling. Rarely have so distant a time and obscured a place come so powerfully to life. It is a great achievement. It is also a provocative one. Faced with the perplexing question of how to write about a person when the evidence is sketchy and often misleading, Schiff has hit on an ingenious solution. She has written a biography in negative, describing the outlines of what she cannot know by brilliantly coloring around the queen.
Louisa Thomas - Newsweek


Schiff's learning is immense, but worn lightly and with an assured grasp of human nature.
Cullen Murphy - Vanity Fair


(Starred review.) An excellent, myth-busting biography...Schiff enters so completely into the time and place, especially the beauty and luxury of the 'great metropolis' of Alexandria, Cleopatra's capital, describing it in almost cinematic detail. And though we all know the outcome, Schiff's account of Cleopatra's and Antony's desperate efforts to manipulate their triumphant enemy, Octavian, make for tragic, page-turning reading. No one will think of Cleopatra in quite the same way after reading this vivid, provocative book.
Publishers Weekly


(Starred review.) A Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer presents a swift, sympathetic life of one of history's most maligned and legendary women....[Cleopatra] took into her bed some of the most powerful men in history (Julius Caesar, Mark Antony), maneuvered through a male world with intelligence, skill and sanguinary brutality, met and failed to charm Herod and bore children to both Caesar and Antony.... Born in 69 BCE, Cleopatra entered a family for whom the word internecine was surely invented—killing family members standing in the way was routine, and Cleopatra was not above it.... Successfully dissipating all the perfume, Schiff finds a remarkably complex woman—brutal and loving, dependent.
Kirkus Reviews




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