Carolyn Meyer, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 304 pages, young adult fiction, historical fiction.
Release Date: 6/7/2011
Source: ARC received from the publisher via NetGalley in return for a fair review.
As a classicist, I jumped at the chance to read Cleopatra Confesses. I absolutely love this era of history, though my focus has been more Greek and Roman, I find Egypt fascinating too. It was so much fun to read Carolyn Meyer's account of Cleopatra's early life.
Cleopatra Confesses is a really interesting first person narrative told by Cleopatra herself starting at age ten and going until age twenty-two. It is the first century BC, an exciting and tumultuous time in history and Cleopatra is at the center of much of it - her father must go into exile, her siblings are plotting against her for the throne, Egypt faces famine over and over, and the Roman Empire and has become the most powerful on Earth.
The time frame the story covers is one that was fairly new to me, Cleopatra as a girl and young woman. The narrative is intimate, almost diary like, making the reader feel huge sympathy for Cleopatra. As Carolyn Meyer points out, not much is known about Cleopatra personally, so it is interesting to read this account of what things might have been like for the famous queen in her early days.
The narrative style is quite effective, especially given the title. Much of the story is told by Cleopatra to an audience who is not familiar with Egyptian culture. There is very little actual "action" or interaction with other characters in the book, mostly it is Cleopatra and her thoughts. I was not sure about this at first, but it worked really well.
At times I did feel that the story got repetitive when Cleopatra talked and worried about her sisters being jealous of her and plotting against her. Cleopatra is very concerned about it and mentions it quite a bit, and, given her position this is understandable, but sometimes it felt like she just kept going on about her sisters when they hadn't actually done anything.
The story is very informative and it is quite clear that Carolyn Meyer did a lot of research. She managed to convey Egyptian history as well as the action of the story seamlessly - I did not feel like I was getting a lesson in history, but was carried away with the excitement of the story. Meyer even added sections at the end with resources, web sites, a time line, and Cleopatra in History. I found these extremely helpful and they rounded out the book for me as I wanted to read what was next for Cleopatra. I think readers aged 12 and up who enjoy Egyptian history or who want to know more about Cleopatra will really enjoy this book.