In this edition of Some of My Favorite Books I recommend 2 fictional biographies. If you like strong women...(and I do)...look no further than Cleopatra and Queen Elizabeth I.
Both women are raised in a royal world of politics and intrigue. Both women offend others by living their lives as they please.
The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George. We all know the story, but this novel is told in "first person" which makes it seem more "real" to me.
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Once again, George's years of research result in an extremely detailed historical novel; following The Autobiography of Henry VIII (1986) and Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles (1992), the author now moves from sixteenth-century Europe to ancient North Africa to bring another legendary historical figure to contemporary understanding. Nimble despite its girth, the novel follows in first-person narrative every triumph and failure the famous queen of Egypt enjoyed and endured during her tumultuous life. This was, of course, a time when Egypt was at the mercy of more powerful neighbors; Cleopatra states the obvious when she says that "it seemed our fate was inextricably entwined with that of Rome." The other two major players on her stage were, as most readers know, Julius Caesar and Marc Antony; and those two figures spring to life along with the queen herself in these many but fast-flowing pages. For historical fiction readers who want to totally lose themselves, this accurate re-creation of a vastly interesting time and place will not disappoint.
I, Elizabeth by Rosalind Miles, again, provides the reader with a fascinating "first person" narrative into the world of Queen Elizabeth I. Rosalind Miles traces, through the queen's own voice, Elizabeth's turbulent years as a princess in Henry VIII's court, her uneasy status during the brief reigns of her brother Edward and sister Mary and her decades on the throne. The author leaves no event unreported, describing in detail the defeat of the Spanish Armada, Elizabeth's struggles with Mary, Queen of Scots, and the rise and fall of Essex. In a genre that often uses passionate love scenes to temper the drier affairs of history, a novel about the world's second most famous female virgin presents a challenge. There are love scenes aplenty, however, since Miles depicts the young Elizabeth as being as sexually obsessed as she is frustrated, her interest in men overshadowing affairs of state, religion and the succession to the throne. Miles is at her best in describing everyday Elizabethan life--religion, food, dress, illness.
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