When Cleopatra died, her daugher, Selene went to live in Rome. There are quite a few different takes and novels about this daughter's life.. Here are three that I have read.
The first I read in 2009. Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran. I didn't like it much and gave it a two. Here's why:
Somebody finally wrote a historical novel about Romans and their lives without having them copulating in every other paragraph. Thumbs up to that. What has made this book less than enjoyable for me is the fact that the first three fourths of it is about a 12 year old. In the last few chapters, the heroine attains fifteen, but never grows older. Readers never meet Selene, the married woman or adult. Therefore, it felt like a young adult book.
Upon the death of her parents and younger brother, the famed Cleopatra's daughter, Selene and her twin brother arrive in Rome as the "guests" of Octavian, the man who conquered Egypt. After an embarrassing parade and meeting both friends and enemies, Selene and her brother begin living a Roman life. To me this novel felt like a retelling of a Roman childhood following a group of friends that go to the circus, bet on the horses, attend school and every now and then hear about a slave revolt. In between, there were bits of Roman history and tidbits about the politics, customs, poets, buildings, and family tensions.
In the afterword, the author tells us that Selene and the man she ends up marrying at the very end "became one of the greatest love stories to come out of Imperial Rome." Where is the love story? Lack of romance is my other complaint. Until the very end almost, there was nil. Selene and her husband ruled for twenty years and she rebuilt Alexandria. Now THAT is what I would like to read about. The love she had with her husband, the twenty years she ruled, and her life as an architect. That interests me so much more than her childhood. Another tantalizing tidbit in the afterword regards Julia, Selene's friend. Apparently, after two marriages and facing a third to her stepbrother, Julia rebelled and her own father had her arrested.
I would rather read about the amazing women mentioned in the afterword, not a bunch of kids growing up in Rome.
The second book I read about Selene was published in 1979, same title, but the author is Andrea Ashton. I gave this one a three...
This is a 500 page book and I made it to page 350 before I grew so fed up with the heroine (to borrow a term from a friend of mine) who is TSTL (too stupid to live).
This novel is about Cleopatra Selene, the daughter of Cleopatra and Marc Antony and it grows obvious around page 250 that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Whereas her mother gave herself to whomever had power in Rome, Selene gives herself to whomever can get her Egypt back. (Egypt was taken over by Rome upon her mother's death.) Selene literally has a one track mind. She wants her country back and she is blinded to everything else. She is married to Juba and after 5 or 6 years, they have never bedded each other because neither will declare their love and all she can talk about is war and Egypt. She cares nothing for Juba's people, Juba's country, or Juba's problems. Instead she jumps in bed with Flavius, a Roman who claims to be able to get her beloved Egypt back. This is where I got frustrated beyond belief.. "Wake up, Selene!"
I thought this woman became an architect? Absolutely no mention of those accomplishments whatsoever and I grew tired of waiting for the subject to arise. I also grew tired of waiting for this "greatest love story of all time" to occur between her and Juba.
Three stars because it is a lot more entertaining than the more recent Cleopatra's Daughter. It certainly doesn't lack for excitement. It simply doesn't have the content I hoped for.
The third book just came out January of 2011, Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray. I liked it, but didn't LOVE it. Four stars and here's why:
It is very similar to Moran's starting with Selene being forced to go to Rome, continues with childhood in Rome, ends with similar situation regarding Juba. (No spoilers here.) However, it was more entertaining and I liked the author's writing style better. There is the same intrigue involving Julia and forbidden romance and all that, but a bonus is lots of politics and religious history regarding Rome and their hatred of Isis as Augustus attempts to oppress the religion that Selene wants to "resurrect."
Selene is a simply a "yes man" in all books that novelize her. I don't like Selene much. I was put off with her acceptance of Roman life. I liked her brother and how he handled things more. He got angry and took action. I would like to read a book in which Selene had balls and actually became an architect. What's up with that? All novels about her seem to be about her as a teenager...
Favorite quote from Selene: "In Egypt, a woman cares not so much whether a man admires her. She worries, instead, about what a man has that she might admire."
Conclusion: Four stars. I bought this on Amazon and will be giving away my copy in my Feb Pick A Book Giveaway.