Nefertiti by Michelle Moran
A while back I won a copy of "Cleopatra's Daughter" by Michelle Moran. I haven't had a chance to read it yet but when I saw this at the library I picked it up. I've never been very interested in Egyptian history (I'm a Tudor/American history kind of girl) but lately I feel like I've been reading a lot more and I like it.
Summary: Nefertiti is beautiful and ambitious; married to the new unstable Pharaoh, they plan to overthrow Egypt's traditional gods and building a grand new city to ensure their place in history. Mutnodjmet is Nefertiti's younger sister who tires of court life but is forever tied to her sister.
First there were definitely some "The Other Boleyn Girl" influences with the powerful sister and the other who has to wait upon her, unable to have a husband and family of her own (as it would challenge the sister) and forced by the family to wait upon her. I found these sisters more palatable than Mary Boleyn (gah-don't like her).
The novel is actually told from Nefertiti's younger sister's perspective Mutnodjmet. She is interested in a simple existence with a garden of herbs and a husband but her family has a greater destiny as Nefertiti marries her cousin the Pharoah (This intermarriage is so wrong to my modern sensibilities) and becomes set on solidifying their family's position in court and her place in history. The couple is obsessed with having their images everywhere-traditionally this was so that the gods could find them after death but here it seems more so that everyone will remember the great builders of Egypt.
I found Nefertiti fascinating although jealous. She has to be the center of attention, foremost in everyone's affection but deep in her heart I do believe she loved her sister as much as she could. Her husband Amunhotep began okay but quickly devolved into a jealous, paranoid, incompetent man. As Egypt was invaded by enemies and their traditional lands lost, he built. He trusted a small private army of Nubians to protect him from his own people. I'm not sure how accurate these personality traits were as the records likely only support the building and need to plaster their faces over everything but it added tension to the story.
One interesting thing I noted was about the religion. Amunhotep overthrows the god Amun in favor of Aten, who is literally the sun. As he does this, he is able to take gold from the priests of Amun as they no longer matter. This reminded me of Henry VIII and the English Reformation as he took the gold from Catholic churches to strengthen his own coffers. He also wanted to be loved by his people and he struggled to have an heir. Nefertiti produces only daughters but she creates a place in the succession for women as Henry will later have to do.
Overall: This is a toughie; I keep changing my mind-I guess I'm going with a 4 out of 5 for a solid story and the enthralling Nefertiti.