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Monday, April 16, 2012

V.V.B.C. Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff

Vicarious Virtual Book Club:
Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff

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I've been waiting to post my review about Cleopatra, by Stacy Schiff, until I finished the book.I persevered through almost 14 1/2 hours of listening to Cleopatra via, and finished today.

Bottom line--I didn't like Cleopatra. It was hard for me to follow when reading it in book form, so I decided to try listening to it, since I knew I had some upcoming trips, and would be in the car. I usually LOVE listening to Audible books. I had to force myself to listen to Cleopatra. It was boring to me! It made me sleepy while driving! Cleopatra was undoubtedly the worst book I've ever listened to. The NARRATOR was good. It was the content I didn't enjoy. The book seemed to me like a high school term paper, for which the author didn't have enough material, so they had to add extraneous filler!

Sister Chick Member, Tracy, struck a chord with her Facebook 

post: "I've made it through chapter 3 in Cleopatra. I don't know 

what the manic first 2 chapters were about, and half of chapter 3, 

but I felt like I was finally understanding something once I got to 

the description of Alexandria (basically Las Vegas with a good 

library), and Caesar & Cleopatra's luxury cruise down the Nile. 

Great descriptions without the buckshot approach to history. Let's 

see if I sink or swim in chapter 4 now...." 

And another message from Tracy: "On

there's something called "Quicklet On's like 

Cliff Notes for the very book we're reading. A list of the characters 

(who all have the same names), and summaries of the chapters. 

You download it to your Kindle for $2.99. I really want to like this 

book and I hope soon I will. Not meant to discourage you! Maybe 

it's just me?"  

I talked to Gloria after I missed Book Club. I was out of town when the Sister Chicks had the discussion on Cleopatra in March. Gloria is the Sister Chick who recommended the book, and led the discussion. Only four members had actually finished the book before the discussion, while maybe a dozen attended the meeting. She said it was pretty much universally agreed that the book was difficult to read, and the dates and names were confusing.

Gloria said that people enjoyed the background and historical  information, descriptions, leaning about the richness of the culture, etc. They felt as I did that the book was more like historical fiction than biographical. According to Gloria, and a couple of other Sister Chicks I spoke to who read at least part of the book, they didn't think it was that great.

It bothered me that the author continually made statements, that could in no way be corroborated. She speculated that Cleopatra studied more poetry than prose. She speculated on how Cleopatra acted, and what she did. Sometimes the author would say that someone during that time period would have probably done thus and so. But, many times, speculative, obviously non-factual information was presented pretty much as FACT. I found that to be annoying and misleading.

Some of the comparisons between different authors was informative and interesting, but it was done so much that it became source and footnote overload. I also thought that the book was at least twice as long as it needed to be. 

On the positive side, I didn't realize Cleopatra was such a shrewd and powerful ruler. I didn't have any concept of the complexities of the region covered in the book, of the interaction of the rulers and dynasties, and of the politics of the region, before reading the book. I'm still not CLEAR on these things, but at least now I have a smidgeon more knowledge!

I did not know about Cleopatra's "colorful" lifestyle, and had no idea how she died. As the book mentions in a derogatory way, my impression of Cleopatra, like that of many others, is largely based on Elizabeth Taylor's film portrayal. I'm not convinced that Ms. Schiff's portrayal is very accurate, either. I do not recommend reading--or listening to--Cleopatra.

However, if you do want to read Cleopatra, and present a contrasting view in the comments, there's a link to the book on Amazon below. If you'd like to try listening to Cleopatra, or any other books, see the links for special offers from Audible on the righthand side of my blog. Many V.V.B.C. books--which you can search on this blog--have WONDERFUL Audible versions!

I welcome comments, corrections, and contradictions in the comments
section! What did YOU think?

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