My Review (take it or leave it) of Michelle Moran's "Nefertiti"Wednesday, May 5, 2010
I recently finished reading "Nefertiti" by Michelle Moran, and I have to say, I think this book is a keeper. Good thing for me, I also purchased the sequel "The Heretic Queen".
Honestly, I had never heard of Michelle Moran, as my reading usually consists of little more than non-fiction and Christian Historic Fiction. So, you can imagine my surprise when I realized I'd just selected a book by an author on the New York Time's Best Sellers List. Ms. Moran's style is fluid with imagery that took me straight into the markets of Ancient Egypt, caused me to smell Nefertiti's palace, the flowering gardens, the roasted cumin in the markets, and even the downy softness of a palace kitten. With each page, I felt like I could lose myself in the desert heat, the drama of the court, the battle for the crowns of Egypt, and literally taste, feel, and see all that the book had to offer me. It was an adventure. And as all good books should do, it completely captivated and swept me away.
Before reading "Nefertiti" I had learned quite a bit about the famous Queen of Egypt who quite possibly also sat on the Horus throne as Pharaoh (sharing the role with her disillusioned husband, King Akhenaten). I knew there was a great deal of mystery that surrounded her story and even more uncertainties of how her life ended. This intrigue was enough to make me smile when I spotted Ms. Moran's book with the stunning image of Nefertiti's famous bust on the cover. I was eager to see where the author would take me, how she would portray Nefertiti's life. At first, I was wary that the story was told in first person through the voice of Nefertiti's half, and beloved sister, Mutnodjmet. Yet, within the first sentences, I found myself in a tomb, an innocent bystander (or intruder, really) at a private funeral for a prince of Egypt. The scene was laid out so perfectly that I could smell the dank, mildew stone walls. I felt as if I should be looking for the darkest corner and crouching down so that no one in the royal family spotted me (laugh if you will, but it was great!). It has always been a crucial selling point for me that the first sentences, paragraphs and pages be enough to keep the reader spellbound, eagerly turning to the next page…and then the next…until it is a battle to put the book down (click here to read this excerpt).
Michelle Moran, as I said, is heralded as a best selling author. I don't know how great she is, as I've only read "Nefertiti", but I certainly do believe that if the rest of her work lives up to this novel, then she is certainly worthy of such a title. I can tell that a great deal of research and passion was poured out into each page of her work. I believe, with certainty, that she wrote as if she knew the Egyptian Queen in a very real way. Each character, from Nefertiti to her nemesis: her husband's first wife, Kiya, were written so that the reader felt as if she could understand their pain, fear, hopes, and struggles. I believe there were even times when my heartbeat picked up pace a beat or two in several critical scenes.
But what I will take with me from this novel, is the unbelievable sadness that I had for Nefertiti and her loved ones. I cannot fathom a life where everything depended on achieving a near impossibility: to become a queen, and eventually Pharaoh, of a very powerful and rich land. Nefertiti had to fight for her crown, and fight even harder to keep it for the sake of her family. It was an obsession. The crown was all that mattered in her life. She would do anything for it: lie, cheat steal…and even murder. And her poor sister, our story teller in this novel, was caught in the cross-hairs of destiny and her personal desire to live a simple, quiet life far from the palace gossip.
Perhaps the most heartbreaking piece that has haunted me, was the prologue to the sequel of "Nefertiti" that was at the end of the novel. It is in this that a young Ramesses is ridiculed by an old priestess who claims cruelly, "The gods do not listen to children! What great things have you accomplished that Amun should hear you speak? What wars have you won? What monuments have you erected? Where will Amun have heard your name," she demands, "to recognize it among so many thousands begging for aid?"
"Nowhere," he whispers.
"If the gods cannot recognize your names," she warns, "they will never hear your prayers."
How hard this life must have been for children like Ramesses, for Mutnodjmet and little Nefertiti to be raised in. I cannot imagine the great weight of the burden that rested on their young shoulders. It is no wonder that they would feel they had no choice but to lie, steal, cheat and kill to have their names forever etched in sandstone for the gods to see...
The Egyptian Proverb says, "To speak the name of the dead is to make them live again." If there was ever any truth to this idea, Michelle Moran certainly made the queen live again.
For more on "Nefertiti" check out these links:
Visit Michelle Moran's Website here
Q&A with Michelle Moran
Purchase "Nefertiti" on Amazon here