Sunday, November 20, 2011

Book 41: Antony and Cleopatra by Colleen McCullough

This was a book that I picked up a few years ago and never got around to reading.  But now my space for books is limited, so I’m reading through all of the books that I’ve been hoarding and getting rid of the ones that I don’t think I will read again.  I was sure that this book would be a one time read, but I loved it and am not getting rid of it any time soon. 

While this book is titled Antony and Cleopatra, only about half of the book is about them.  And about half of that time has them in separate places.  This is probably why I enjoyed it more than I thought, because I kind of hate the two of them.  I love to read histories and historical fiction from that time period, but those two were idiots and I prefer to read about their downfall rather than their love.  Fortunately, that is exactly what this book was and the other half of the book focuses on one of my favorite historical figures, Octavian. 

The book starts not long after Philippi and highlights the struggles between Antony and Octavian, as well as Cleopatra’s attempts to gain more power for her son, Caesarion.  Antony is still hurt that Caesar left him out of his will and adopted Octavian as his son.  Octavian in his eyes is inexperienced and cowardly.  Antony’s relationship with Cleopatra goes from a nice distraction to pathetic codependence on his part.  She uses her influence to manipulate him into giving her everything she wants; with plans to eventually have Rome for her son.  Octavian wants to prove to others that he is everything that Caesar was and more.  He has the best intentions for Rome; he wants to make it the best city in the world, while also being its undisputed ruler. 

It took me a while to get through this book, not because it wasn’t interesting but because it was so long and the print was very small.  My reading time is a lot more limited lately as well.  Nonetheless, this book was fascinating.  It had everything that I enjoy in historical fiction: politics, intrigue, etc.  If you enjoy books like I, Claudius (which is one my favorite books) then this is for you.  As a side note, this book seemed to suggest that Cleopatra had Graves disease, which if true would really explain a lot of her actions.  As someone with Graves, I completely understand how crazy it can make a person and I wonder if this is true.

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