Original date of publication: 1977
My edition: 2010 (Chicago Review Press)
Why I decided to read: recommended to me on Amazon.com
How I acquired my copy: review copy from the publisher, June 2010
I don’t read much historical fiction set in ancient Egypt. I read Judith Tarr’s Pillar of Fire (about Amunhotep); and another one whose name is escaping me at the moment; and Michelle Moran’s books about Nefertiti and Nefertari; but this is the first novel I’ve read about Hatshepsut, Egypt’s female Pharaoh. She ruled Egypt for twenty years, despite the various troubles she faced during her reign—including the threat from her nephew, Tuthmoses III, who later attempted to erase Hatshepsut’s name from the temples and monuments she erected during her lifetime. Nonetheless, Hatshepsut had a long, illustrious career as Pharaoh, not the least of which is because she was assisted by a strong group of advisors.
The novel focuses on the earlier part of Hatshepsut’s life, beginning at around the age of ten, when her sister dies and Tuthmoses I decides that Hatshepsut will follow in his footsteps. Gedge brings Hatshepsut the woman to life in this novel, merging fiction with fact. Her description of the various military campaigns lost me a little bit, but other that that, I found this to be a really well-written piece of fiction. Hatshepsut was a strong, tenacious woman, as seen in the way that she held on to her crown, even as her nephew attempted to take it from her. Gedge’s descriptions of ancient Egypt are evocative of the time and place. I don’t know much about ancient Egypt, but I’ve heard that Gedge was renowned for accuracy in her research. This novel is a slow one to read, but well wroth it. I’ll be on the lookout for more books by Pauline Gedge.