Sunday, September 27, 2009
Review: Nefertiti by Michelle Moran
Author: Michelle Moran
Publisher: Three Rivers Press (May 27, 2008)
Book Source: the library
From the author's website:
The sweeping story of a powerful Egyptian family, Nefertiti: A Novel tells the tale of two sisters, the first of whom is destined to rule as one of history’s most fascinating queens.
Beautiful Nefertiti and her sister, Mutnodjmet, have been raised far from the court of their aunt, the Queen of Egypt. But when the Pharaoh of Egypt dies, their father’s power play makes Nefertiti wife to the new and impetuous king. It is hoped she will temper King Amunhotep’s desire to overturn Egypt’s religion, but the ambitious Nefertiti encourages Amunhotep’s outrageous plans instead, winning the adoration of the people while making powerful enemies at court. Younger yet more prudent, Mutnodjmet is her sister’s sole confidant, and only she knows to what lengths Nefertiti will go for a child to replace the son of Amunhotep’s first wife.
As King Amunhotep’s commands become more extravagant, he and Nefertiti ostracize the army, clergy, and Egypt’s most powerful allies. Then, when Mutnodjmet begins a dangerous affair with a general, she sees how tenuous her situation is at her own sister’s court. An epic story that resurrects ancient Egypt in vivid detail, Nefertiti: A Novel.
This book has been reviewed almost everywhere in blogland, and for good reason. The story is excellent, the characters are engaging and Mutnodjmet (Mut), the narrator, is phenomenal. Her point of view is perfect for telling the story of one of Egypt's most tumultuous times. Mut loves her sister Nefertiti, family, and country, but she is not willing to jeopardize her own beliefs and opinions. Although Aten is now the new god, she secretly keeps her own faith of the old gods, while doing the bare minimum to survive the royal court and its new faith. Mut also supports her sister even though her faith in Nefertiti has been shaken quite a bit.
Moran's Nefertiti is wonderfully complex. Here is a woman who marries the future Pharaoh Amenhotep IV, later to be known as Akhenaten, at 17, and is expected to reign in his grandiose ideas. But in order to gain his love and trust, Nefertiti must believe as her husband does, and for a while she truly does, that Aten is all supreme. Nefertiti does become full of herself and her power, but how could she not? She has both her husband and Egypt wrapped around her finger. Nefertiti knows how to keep the support of the people, and her husband is not completely foolish. Only through Nefertiti can Akhenaten have the support of the people.
Towards the end of the story, Nefertiti begins to express thoughts and ideas that are not consistent with her husband's. Akhenaten's wild behavior and actions through the years have put Egypt at great peril. Once Nefertiti gains ultimate power, it doesn't take long for her to see where her future lies, with the old gods of Egypt. Although she loves her husband, Nefertiti must do what is necessary to safeguard Egypt, herself, and her family, not only for the present but for the future as well.
History doesn't tell us what happened to Nefertiti for certain, but the ending that Moran has crafted seems very plausible and likely. Nefertiti was a woman to be reckoned with, and I doubt she went away quietly in the night. She made a lot of enemies, so it is no surprise that her name was obliterated throughout Egypt. However, those enemies never counted on the lasting impression she left. Can't remeber who ruled after her, can you?
At the very end, the reader comes to learn how smart and wise Nefertiti really was. For someone to basically juggle two personalities or behavior's for so long is quite difficult. And for all their problems, Mut and Nefertiti loved and counted on each other as only sisters could. Their bond was never brokwn, tested, but not broken.
As a matter of fact, the same could be said for all of the family relationships and bonds. Family was everything back then, and probably the only people one could really trust.
Moran brings ancient Egypt to life with this book. Her descriptions of manner, dress, and the surroundings are wonderful. The woman did her homework! Moran's analysis and interpretation of human behavior goes perfectly with what is already known through artifacts and study.
My Rating: 100/100.
I truly enjoyed this book. It reads quickly, and it was hard for me to put down. Now if I could only get my butt to Egypt myself!
Challenges Met: Library Challenge 2009
Speaking of which, if you ever find yourself in Philadelphia, try to visit the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania of Archaeology and Anthropology. Penn has sponsored excavations in Egypt since 1910. The museum has a permanent Egyptian exhibit which is quite wonderful.
When the Tut exhibit was in town, they unveiled a new section called Amarna: Ancient Egypt's Place in the Sun I believe this may be permanent also, either way, the artifacts are just amazing. Dr. Zahi Hawass earned his PhD at Penn so the Museum definitely has some clout.
The whole museum is very interesting and can be considered a hidden gem.