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The massive US bestseller - 350,000 hardbacks sold in 22 weeks on New York Times List

Cleopatra's palace shimmered with onyx and gold but was richer still in political and sexual intrigue. Though her life spanned fewer than forty years, it reshaped the contours of the ancient world.

Famous long before she was notorious, Cleopatra has gone down in history for all the wrong reasons. Stacy Schiff boldly separates fact from fiction to rescue the magnetic queen whose death ushered in a new world order, a generation before the birth of Christ. Rich in detail, epic in scope, Schiff's is a luminous reconstruction of a dazzling life.

Reviews

Under [Schiff's] pen, the mirage of Cleopatra shimmers down the deserts of time and suddenly stands before us, in new and thrilling sharp focus ... full of well researched context and much learned speculation

Jan Moir, Daily Mail

We see a great queen painted in dazzling colours in the twilight of a dazzling kingdom ... new life is breathed into an indisputably authentic icon

Sunday Times

An inspired combination of carefully parsed texts, new research and pulse-quickening descriptive writing ... formidable and spellbinding achievement

Guardian

[Schiff] has done her homework and writes elegantly and wittily, creating truly evocative word pictures.

Independent

Schiff has produced a highly literary, imaginative, coherent narrative, "restoring context" to the sources she delves into in an intelligent way. Her writing is energetic, evocative... She also has an unerring nose for what is interesting

Daily Telegraph

A real page-turner bursting with intrigue and suspense.

Easy Living

Schiff, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Véra Nabokov, set out to the extract the real Cleopatra from the mythic figure.... Schiff's learning is immense, but worn lightly and with an assured grasp of human nature

Vanity Fair

In [Stacy Schiff's] terrific new biography of history's favorite sex-crazed, power-mad hussy, called simply Cleopatra, Schiff tosses out centuries' worth of envy, misogyny, and plain old snark to unearth the brilliant Macedonian ruler and restore the golden luster of Cleopatra VII's reign in Egypt....As gripping as the story of [Cleopatra's] 22-year reign over Egypt is (especially once Mark Antony arrives in his breastplate), the greatest pleasure comes from reading Schiff's lavishly detailed scenes of banquets (think roasted peacocks and storks), processions of elephants in golden slippers, and political intrigue. The Cleopatra who emerges had a talent for making an impression, a genius for diplomacy, and more flat-out Girl Power per pound than any woman before or since

Marie Claire (US)

Schiff excavates truth from myth with vivid eloquence, taking us back to a life in a time and place that was both 'an orgy of pillage and murder' and 'the Paris of the ancient world.'... Schiff's portrayal brings to life a charismatic figure who spoke eight languages fluently, and for 22 years, until her legendarily gruesome death, ruled a glittering city-state of astronomical wealth

Elle (US)

Startling. Rarely have so distant a time and obscured a place come so powerfully to life. It is a great achievement. It is also a provocative one. Faced with the perplexing question of how to write about a person when the evidence is sketchy and often misleading, Schiff has hit on an ingenious solution. She has written a biography in negative, describing the outlines of what she cannot know by brilliantly coloring around the queen.

Newsweek

Hugely compelling...Schiff sifts through gauzy mythology to uncover a brilliant young woman

Vogue (US)

[Cleopatra's] first biographers never met her, and she deliberately hid her real self behind vulgar display. A cautious writer would never consider her as a subject. Stacy Schiff, however, has risen to the bait, with deserved confidence ....Schiff's rendering of [Alexandria] is so juicy and cinematic it leaves one with the sense of having visited a hopped-up ancient Las Vegas, with a busy harbor and a really good library....It's dizzying to contemplate the thicket of prejudices, personalities and propaganda Schiff penetrated to reconstruct a woman whose style, ambition and audacity make her a subject worthy of her latest biographer. After all, Stacy Schiff's writing is distinguished by those very same virtues.

The New York Times Book Review

Superb...Cleopatra led an epic life, and Schiff captures its sweep and scope in a vigorous narrative aimed at the general reader yet firmly anchored in modern scholarship. The author's greatest strengths remain the lucid intelligence and subtle analysis of personality...Schiff reanimates [Cleopatra] as a living, breathing woman: utterly extraordinary, to be sure, but recognizably human.

Los Angeles Times

Stacy Schiff draws a portrait worthy of her subject's own wit and learning...Ms. Schiff manages to tell Cleopatra's story with a balance of the tragic and the hilarious...[and] does a rare thing: She gives us a book we'd miss if it didn't exist.

Wall Street Journal

Captivating...Ms. Schiff strips away the accretions of myth that have built up around the Egyptian queen and plucks off the imaginative embroiderings of Shakespeare, Shaw and Elizabeth Taylor. In doing so, she gives us a cinematic portrait of a historical figure far more complex and compelling than any fictional creation, and a wide, panning, panoramic picture of her world....Writing with verve and style and wit, Ms. Schiff recreates Cleopatra's lavish courting of Antony (including one dinner in which there was a knee-deep expanse of roses and some of the attendees received not gift baskets but furniture and horses decked out in silver-plated trappings) and his even more extravagant offerings to her (including the library of Pergamum and a host of territories which gave her dominion over Cyprus, portions of Crete and all but two cities of the thriving Phoenician coast). For that matter, Ms. Schiff even manages to make us see afresh famous scenes like Antony's painful death after his defeat at the hands of Octavian, and Cleopatra's subsequent suicide.

The New York Times

A swift, sympathetic life of one of history's most maligned and legendary women.

Kirkus

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Formats & editions

  • EBook

    9781448114719

    November 30, 2011

    Virgin Digital

    400 pages

    Online retailers

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  • Paperback

    9780753539569

    September 1, 2011

    Virgin Books

    400 pages

    RRP $27.99

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