Review and Contest for Cleopatra, A Life

I read Cleopatra A Life as a member of the From Left to Write book club. I was given a free copy as a member of this book club, however, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.  

When I signed up to read Cleopatra A Life by Stacy Schiff, I have to admit I had some doubts that I would be able to get through the book.  Biographies are not one of my favorite genres, and a historical biography?  I had never even read one before.

It was a little difficult at first getting into the tone of a historical biography but after a few chapters, you could say I had “gotten it”!  Stacey Schiff makes it easy as she writes more for the common person than the historian.  I was quite impressed with Ms. Schiff herself as she has written biographies on Benjamin Franklin and has even won a Pulitzer Prize for her biography Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov).  When I think of an historical biographer author I am more apt to think of an aging college professor.  Ms. Schiff looks more like a model.  She definitely breaks that stereotype wide open!

Cleopatra is one of those iconic figures in history where everyone thinks they know about her, but what everyone thinks they know has been gleaned from William Shakespeare or Elizabeth Taylor, and not actually historical fact.  The author even admits that indeed, there is not a lot of facts on Cleopatra and someone who takes on the Egyptian Queen has to sort through even the history written while she lived, trying to recognize fact from fiction.  It seems even back in 29 BC Egypt and Rome had their own versions of Perez Hilton and Rush Limbaugh.  Ms. Schiff does an admirable job of filling in the blanks and is honest that there is some speculation on her part.

As I got into the book I found myself reading it as if it were a novel that you can’t wait to find out how it ends.  I knew Cleopatra died, of course, but did not know the real particulars of it. Do not let the “biography” classification of this book stop you from reading it.  Romance, sex, deceit, betrayal…this book has it all, although if you are looking for Danielle Steele, this isn’t your type of book.

Would you like to win a gently used copy of Cleopatra A Life?  Entering is easy and you have three chances to win:

1. Leave a comment below.

2. Tweet out the contest.

3. Post this contest on your Facebook wall.  

If you tweet and Facebook the contest, please let me know by leaving two more entries.  In other words, if you have commented, Tweeted and Facebooked, you will have THREE separate entries.  

The contest will end on Tuesday, October 18th at 11:59 p.m. EST.  A winner will be chosen at random.  Good luck!


Congratulations to Joy, winner of Cleopatra A Life.  Her number, #2, was chosen by the very random asking my husband to pick a number: 1, 2, or 3!  This is a great book that whether or not you buy or borrow, will not disappoint you!

On Being Remembered

(I read Cleopatra A Life as a member of the From Left to Write book club.  I was given a free copy of this book.  This post is inspired by the book.

Welcome to all of my fellow book club members or anyone coming here for the first time!  I am a chronically ill mom married to a chronically ill man and we are raising our five-year-old son, who also has some special needs.  My blog focuses on the challenges parents with chronic illness face, but also speaks about being a mom and a woman in general. )

One does not have to read Stacy Shiff’s book Cleopatra A Life to believe that one knows all they need to know about the Egyptian queen.  Many of us have read about her through Shakespeare, or confuse her image with Elizabeth Taylor’s portrayal in the 1963 movie, Cleopatra.  Even if one has never read about her through plays or watched the classic film, Cleopatra is as notorious or famous now as is our modern day Lady GaGa.

And yet, without reading this book or a book that writes about Cleopatra’s actual history, you would have many misconceptions.  She was not a great beauty “a la” Liz Taylor.  A temptress maybe, but she did not have much time to do this tempting as she was dead by age 39.  There is only evidence that she actually had sex with only two men in her life, but they do happen to be pretty important ones, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, sound familiar? She was married twice, each time to a brother.

Most will not read this book or any other that is historical, and so the misconceptions about the Queen will live on.  But above all, Cleopatra was a shrewd strategist and an ingenious negotiator, who in her short life, reshaped the ancient world.

As I read this book, I thought about how I would want to be remembered.  Poor Cleo must be “rolling over in her tomb” if she is able to.

What do people think of me right now?  If you are a faithful reader to this blog, I would say you know me pretty well, better than a lot of my friends and family.  If you are not a regular reader of this blog, a first-timer, you may wonder how anyone could be so sick, or think they are so sick that they could give up a successful career as a headhunter, a good salary, and raise her child in poverty.  How could anyone do that?  Isn’t their something this woman could do to support her family, instead of living off of our government for food stamps, and seeking disability, when she is only 41 years old? Maybe it makes you mad when you think that somehow she is taking your tax dollars to live off of. That if you were sick, nothing would stop you, that you have a family to support and whatever came your way, even if it was cancer, you would still get up every day and go to work, that you would have to, that you MUST!

Perhaps you wonder how anyone could have 15 diagnoses and live?  Is this woman telling the truth?  Is she one of those bloggers who makes up a life in order to get successful through advertising?  When will she die?  Surely, no one could claim to be that sick and be able to throw her child a birthday party or celebrate Christmases or take her son to karate classes.  Something just does not add up here.

If you see me in real life, with bandages on my wrists and elbows, you may wonder what in God’s name is wrong with me?  What the Hell happened to her?  If you know me well and know that I am on an immunosuppressant drug and that I catch colds and weird infections frequently, you may be scared to be around me.  When exactly the opposite is true, it is you who are a danger to me.

What do I want to be remembered for when I die?  It is something I do think about frequently as if you do the math, it does not appear that I will live to a ripe old age, that at 41, my life is more than half way over.

Maybe Cleopatra didn’t think much about what her legacy would be, but I have had plenty of time to, as I am not busy ruling over a country and am more likely to be found in bed in my pajamas.

When I die, I know a world will not mourn my death, or be thinking about me over two thousand years later, but I know those who are my readers, close friends and family will.  I would hope that with this blog and the way that I live my life and through my conversations, that I have brought comfort to a few thousand or so people who are sick and raising children, just like me.  That I have educated healthy people on what being chronically ill is like and that NOT just the uneducated, those mothers who are not sure who their “babys’ daddies” are, or illegal aliens need food stamps; that there are disabled people who need them too.  That those who use scooters or wheelchairs are not just old, quadraplegic or have a terminal illness.

I would like to be remembered as someone who used her 15 illnesses to make a difference in this world.  Maybe not to millions but to those few whose lives I have touched.  I would like to be mourned not as a sick person who died slowly, but as someone who lived every minute of her life to the fullest.  As the best mother she knew how to be, the best wife, relative and friend that she was able to be.

And now let’s talk of my death no more.  I have a life to lead now.  I have to get ready to start my day which includes getting an ultrasound done on my thyroid, picking up a big bottle for a 24 hour urine test, making a shopping list and buying a few things at the grocery store, and planning tonight’s dinner.  I am thinking about what my son and I will do when he comes home from school. I am looking forward to the new episodes tonight of “Gumball”, “Adventure Time” and “The Regular Show” on the Cartoon Network, which my whole family loves.

Maybe you are going to do some of those things too.