Antony and Cleopatra, by Colleen McCullough

Cleopatra was waiting, dressed now in filmy layers of gauze…The style was neither Greek nor Roman nor Asian, but something of her own, waisted, flared in the skirts, the bodice fitting her closely to show small breasts beneath; her thin little arms were softened by billowing sleeves that ended at the elbows to allow room for bracelets up her forearms. Around her neck she wore a gold chain from which dangled, enclosed in a cage of finest golden wire, a single pearl the size and colour of a strawberry. Antony’s gaze was drawn to it immediately; he gasped, eyes growing to her face in astonishment.

Julius Caesar is dead, leaving two men wanting to lead the Roman empire. One is his nephew Octavian, a brilliant man but sickly, and seen by many as too weak to lead. The other is Mark Antony, who believes he should have been Caesar’s heir. Meanwhile, Cleopatra, Julius Ceasar’s lover and Egypt’s Queen, seeks more power – not for herself, but for her son, Caesarion, who she wants to rule the entire world. When she and Antony come together, each is determined to get what they want.

Antony and Cleopatra is the tale of this star-crossed pair and the times in which they lived. This is not a romance, but an epic, exposing with historical detail the machinations and intrigues of the time. Vastly different to Shakespeare’s tale of the same name, this is history with an authentic, if at times slightly dry, feel.

Antony and Cleopatra is the final instalment in author Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series, but this reviewer had not read the previous offerings and did not feel disadvantaged by this. At times, though, it was hard to connect with the big cast of characters and to keep track of minor players.

Overall, this is an intriguing piece of historical fiction.

Antony and Cleopatra

Antony and Cleopatra, by Colleen McCullough
Harper Collins, 2007

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