So far, I am very disappointed in this book--by a Pulitzer Prize winning author. She uses very long paragraphs that should have been divided. She puts her points embedded so that its hard for a reader to see what she intends to be significant.
There are clever pieces that are not at all clever.The author says she will not create material but may create context from other sources, but she does not give the reader cues. For example, in Chapter II she goes on and on about Cleopatras education, including details about her oral reading, her rhetorical skills, etc., for at least 6 pages then, finally, she cites Plutarch for her end-point educational achievements (most of which have been given over and over in other work about Cleopatra).I appreciated the authors judgments about the difficulties of a Greek speaker learning Egyptian of that era, demotic and formal, compared with the difficulties of an Egyptian speaker learning Greek.
But I did not find her showing evidence whether or not these were generalizations or actually the case with Cleopatra.I also found boring the detailed accounts of the Ptolemies intermarriages, of the ruthless executions of family members in line of succession, and of the conflict brought on by the Macedonia ancestry of the Ptolemies, including Cleopatra, simply because there are other sources for this.
(I see I have written one of those sentences that I have blamed Schiff for. Blush.)This book may be useful for readers who havent studied Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Marc Antony, etc., before. I also consider it useful for the broader discussion of the many women of educational achievement of this era. I also found her description of the Alexandrian library and the tutor/scholars making use of it during her education.Im going to give the author another chapter and if it doesnt improve, Ill put it aside for other sources.Addition August 2011: I have read more parts of the book now and still have the same reactions.
I am hoping some other Goodreads reviews will point me to unique, useful, and artistic aspects of this prizewinning historical fiction.