I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation. The book is Cleopatra’s Daughter by my friend Michelle Moran.
It’s become a tradition here on Fiction Nation to feature a book from historic novelist Michelle Moran the week of Christmas. In the past we’ve talked about Neferititi and Nefertari and the pharaohs of Egypt. She’s jumped in her time machine and moved forward to the Rome of Antony and Caesar and of course Cleopatra. Moran’s special skill is finding a young woman at the edge of the action to tell her story someone with wit and courage and the luck unclear whether its good or bad luck to be a part of history while it was unfolding.
In this case, yes, Cleopatra had a daughter, and her name was Selene. Raised in the gloriously modern city of Alexandria, Selene had everything going for her. She’s a princess, her parents adore her, she’s well educated life is great. Then the Romans show up and spoil yet another party. Because the glory that was Rome? Pretty much only if you asked a Roman. Oh, and only ask a male Roman who wasn’t a slave. The rest of the populace pretty much agreed it was a mud covered craphole. That’s where the now orphaned Selene and her brothers were removed to and paraded through the streets in chains mind you while also being told they were honored guests of the Caesars. So let’s quickly unpick this knot of relationships after Julius Caesar’s assassination, Mark Antony left his wife Octavia (grand niece of Julius) for Cleopatra Cleo and AntonyÊhave a couple of kids. Mark Antony falls on his own sword during a battle with Octavian who was the grand nephew of Julius Caesar, Cleopatra’s old now dead squeeze. Cleopatra meets her fate at the business end of an asp, and Octavian is now in charge in Rome. He hands his guests Cleopatra and Antony’s kids to the now-deceased Antony’s ex-wife, his sister Octavia. Somebody get Maury on the phone! This is a gross simplification of events, but you really do need either a scorecard or a guide like the gifted Michelle Moran to keep it all straight. She takes huge canvasses like Imperial Rome and brings characters both great and small, slave and emperor, school girl and warrior, and fills them with detail and expression.
So this one has got historical accuracy, tragic romance, cameos by famous characters, gorgeous clothing and beautiful houses. Michelle, what’s not to love?