Cleopatra’s Shadows

Emily Holleman. Little, Brown, $27 (384p) ISBN 978-0-316-38298-4
Holleman’s historically detailed and multilayered debut captures the hostile dynamics between the last generation of the Ptolemaic dynasty as Berenice, elder sister of Cleopatra, leads a coup to oust her hated father as ruler of Hellenistic Egypt. While the more famous Cleopatra makes cameos at the beginning and end of the book, the action centers on Berenice’s struggles to establish her rule and preserve her imperiled kingdom, while their youngest sister, Arsinoe, finds her own life in danger from various threats. Holleman mines the tense though at times static scenes with scintillating visual details of gorgeous palaces, rich temples, and the famous library of Alexandria, evoking a world in which the ancient heroes Alexander and Odysseus—and Greek tragic characters such as Antigone—come to life. The book deftly imagines the intricacies of the life of an ancient ruler, in which the rhythms of the Nile and native Egyptian deities mesh uneasily with Greek rites. Berenice is portrayed as ruthless and conflicted, fearful of being seen as soft, while Arsinoe grows increasingly aware that her visions are not dreams but portents, a difficult gift. Holleman’s imaginative, textured portraits of the lives and ambitions of these little-known heroines will appeal to readers of historical and literary fiction alike. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/31/2015
Release date: 10/06/2015
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 500 pages - 978-1-4104-8437-6
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-316-38299-1
Open Ebook - 384 pages - 978-0-316-38300-4
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