While on my way to and from Alabama for my grandmothers funeral, I bought two books. Let’s face it, a 10 hour car drive is perfect for reading. I’m not one of those people who get carsick reading, and I’m also not my twin brother who gets mesmerized by power lines and corn. Since I’m the only member of my family that is kindle-deficient, I made a quick stop at Borders. The book I had originally wanted to grab wasn’t available, so I scouted out the buy 1 get one 50% off table, coming up with two books, one that is sort of urban fantasy and the other historical fiction.
My favorite genre to read in is YA lit. I find the stories more engrossing, to be honest, than most adult fare and a little less full of itself. I do however, enjoy a great deal of historical fiction. Particularly when it has a female lead who doesn’t simper all the time. I blame stealing too many of my mothers romance novels as a kid. I think this also is why I love a good romance novel and I’m really not afraid to admit it.
I read Cleopatra’s Daughter: A Novel second, but I think I liked it best of the two books I bought. It’s lush with details of both Alexandria and Rome, and exalts the Hellenistic world. It starts just as Cleopatra commits suicide and her children are brought to Rome in chains. The book details the daughter, Cleopatra Selene, life as she adjusts to the household she is forced to reside in. She is a smart and remarkable young adult, and gains a spot working for the premier architect of Octavian’s Rome.
She finds so much to do be different from her Alexandria. Her gods are ridiculed and laughed at, and even Bacchus/Dionysos is not looked on with great favor. She constantly is battling the stereotypes of how Egyptians lived. At the same time, there is a mysterious person rabble-rousing the slaves of the Empire and of course, Selene has a crush on Marcellus, Octavian’s heir. Slavery is a major theme, both to Selene and politically within the book, from the influx of cheap slaves, to their nonexistent legal rights, and the rabble rouse. There is also a great sadness in the book towards the treatment of women, to the abandoned newborns left to die of exposure.
It is simply a great book, suitable for a YA reader as well as adults. The story ends with Selene’s marriage, and doesn’t age past about 16. Some have criticized for that, because Selene’s life was extraordinary beyond her start in the Roman Empire. There are historical events referenced, but a great many were invented for the sake of the story. Which is fine by me, I don’t read Historical Fiction because every detail is accurate, I read for the impression of being immersed in a culture and period foreign to me. This book did that — for almost the entire daylight portion of my trip home, I was happily in Ancient Rome.