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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Nefertiti by Michelle Moran

Diana Gabaldon tagged this debut novel 'Compulsively readable!' and she's not far off the mark. I'm sure I won't be the first blogger to draw this comparison but this book was like The Other Boleyn Girl - Egyptian style - and for three main reasons:

Firstly, thematically. For as much as this was a novel of sisters, it was a novel of rivals. Moran demonstrated unflinchingly the horrible acts women are capable of commiting to gain power over one another through Nefertiti and her dealings with Kiya (the Second Wife) and her sister Mutny. However Mutny is unable to abandon her sister, even as the throne of Egypt is crashing down around her. Through the relationship of the siblings, Moran shows that blood ties are stronger than the wounds we inflict on one another. These women are bound to each other ultimately, not by their rivalry, but by their love. It was this central idea that for me echoed Mary and Anne Boelyn.

Secondly, this book has been written with a conviction that can be rare in historicals of famous figures. Apart from Philippa Gregory, I haven't read another author who writes such vivid characters based on real people. After reading the author's notes, I was impressed at how much research Moran did so she could confidently draw her own conclusions on the character of Nefertiti and write a novel firmly grounded in historical fact. While she concedes that some Egyptologists may disagree with her interpretations, she hasn't allowed this to deter from the characters she's created. To me, this is brave storytelling.

Thirdly, it is written in first person through the eyes of the overlooked sister. As a reader, I think that was a smart move. Nefertiti, while fascinating, wasn't exactly likeable. Mutny however was completely relatable and I think had this been written through Nefertiti's eyes, readers would've had no one to have sympathy for.

Speaking of sympathy, as I often do when I'm finished a historical, I Googled the facts as soon as I was done. I must admit, I'm disappointed to know what came of Mutny after the pages of this book finished. I really liked her and I had hoped the Throne of Horus wouldn't come for her!

If, like me, Ancient Egypt has always called to you, then let it sweep you away into this book. I don't think you'll be disappointed. A very strong debut novel.

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