Tuesday, May 24, 2011

When We Were Gods by Colin Falconer

Throughout the centuries, the legend of Cleopatra VII, Queen of Egypt, has fascinated and intrigued. But it has also been clouded by speculation, embellishment, and stormy controversy. Thousands of years after her death, she remains an iconic figure, an enigma; her fascinating life the fodder for numerous novels and movies. Of all the books I’ve read about this notorious heroine, Colin Falconer’s version is perhaps the most plausible and realistic version. He has struck a suitable balance between circumspect and entertainment. 

Cleopatra was born into the Ptolemaic dynasty sometime in late 69 BC – August 12, 30 BC. She was considered the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt. She spoke Greek and later Egyptian, flaunting herself to the world as Isis, an Egyptian goddess. After the death of her father, as was tradition for Egyptian royal families of the time, she married her brothers, but after their deaths or murders, she became Egypt’s sole ruler. Her liaisons with Caesar strengthened her power and she bore him a son whom she named Caesarian.


After Caesar’s horrific assassination, Cleopatra united with Marc Antony, handsome, powerful, and natural leader of men who loved the decadent life.

Marc Anthony

Together with Marc Antony they set out to defeat Caesar’s power hungry and ruthless nephew and heir, Octavian.


Cleopatra bore the handsome, charismatic Marc Antony twins, Selene and Alexander.

Cleopatra and Marc Antony

But the fates brought little luck to Marc Antony and he committed suicide after failed battles. Heartbroken, Cleopatra followed him to the grave by allowing the bite of a poisonous asp to kill her.

Cleopatra by Frank Dicksee

The novel opens when Cleopatra is 18 years old at the death of her father, Ptolemy. Intrigue and danger follows as powerful men try to usurp the throne of Egypt from her. My favourite passage in the novel is the very first scene where Marc Antony is introduced. I must have read and re-read that scene no less than ten times just for the pure enjoyment. Nothing short of brilliant and so much fun! The story unfolds chronologically, realistically, and with a wonderful mix of fiction and fact. I cannot state it enough how real the story seemed and how believable the author portrayed Cleopatra to the reading audience. Her cunning and wisdom was more than adequately captured, as was her devotion to her children, her country, and her love for Caesar and Marc Antony.

The author’s writing style is direct and easy, allowing the reader to immerse themselves into the story seamlessly. Cleopatra evolves as a sensual, strong, woman trapped in a world of betrayal and the constant battle for power and supremacy. I liked this author’s prose and the way he tells a story. He worked hard to present the facts, but was able to add enough color and individuality to keep me turning and turning the pages. The level of detail made this novel real as life itself. This is the first novel I’ve read by Colin Falconer, but it won’t be the last. I’ll be collecting all of his books and will avidly follow his career from here on in. Bravo Mr. Falconer! Thank you for the pleasure of reading such a fine book. Now, off to Amazon to acquire The Sultan’s Harem.

1 comment:

S.L. Stevens said...

I love this book! Falconer does a great job of creating a realistic historical setting and making Cleopatra a sympathetic character without denying the morally questionable choices she made.