Cleopatra Confesses looks at the pharaoh’s childhood
Author: elisabeth sahlmueller – contributor
“I am Queen of Egypt, the most powerful woman ever to have ruled Egypt, yet I cannot save myself.” These words are attributed to the famous Egyptian pharaoh, Cleopatra, in Carolyn Meyer’s, Cleopatra Confesses.
The book is a great historical drama novel, because it brings readers into the time period of Cleopatra, one history’s most easily recognizable figures. People seem to believe she had a lot of ambition, and always seduced men to get what she wanted. However, no one really knows what her true personality was.
The novel tells the story of Cleopatra’s childhood through her perspective. At the beginning, there is a quick introduction where Cleopatra reflects on the moments of her life, shortly before her death in 30 B.C. When chapter one begins, she is ten years old and she grows older as the story continues.
Very little is ever discussed about her youth; people are more aware of her adult years and seductive powers. However, Carolyn Meyer’s novel switches this idea by placing more emphasis on Cleopatra’s childhood. Through doing this, Meyer shows there is more to Cleopatra’s life and personality than what people commonly believe.
The novel starts off when Cleopatra’s father, King Ptolemy XII, returns from Rome where he met with Julius Caesar, Crassus and Pompey, members of the Triumvirate. While in Rome, he forms an agreement to allow himself to remain the independent ruler of Egypt. Egyptians are upset over this because it means an increase in their taxes when they barely have enough to survive as it is. Her father fears for his safety and flees into exile, worrying that the upset Egyptians will revolt against him. Murder and betrayal escalate as Cleopatra’s sisters, Berenike and Tryphaena, rule Egypt as joint co-rulers who spend more time being jealous of and fighting each other than they do ruling the country.
Eventually, Cleopatra’s father returns to Alexandria from exile to regain his throne. Cleopatra is placed into power by becoming queen consort alongside her father, and marrying her brothers after King Ptolemy XII’s death to remain in power. Later tension rises when her younger brother tries to eliminate her from ruling and her younger sister tries to take the throne for herself. Cleopatra turns to Julius Caesar for help to regain her power. This is an interesting part of the story because she is known for seducing Caesar in order to gain his help. Cleopatra is insistent in the story that she went there seeking to persuade him to help her and did not intend that they would fall in love.
Cleopatra Confesses covers a wide range of reader’s interests: rivalry, jealousy ambition, love, betrayal, and war. The novel also offers a quick glimpse into what Cleopatra’s childhood years may have been like.
If you enjoy this novel, you may also be interested in reading Cleopatra’s Moon by Vicky Alvear Shecter and Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran. These two books are about Cleopatra’s children being taken to Rome for Octavian’s triumph.
Overall, Meyer’s novel was excellent and I would recommend it to anyone who loves reading about Ancient Egypt.