The Woman Who Would Be King book review

I have always had an interest in Ancient Egypt, but I have never done any reading on the subject. But this book was simply too tantalising to resist.

It is a biography of Hatshepsut, an amazing woman who was a female pharaoh, a female king. My curiosity well and truly piqued, I jumped in to the pages with glee.

Having visited Egyptian exhibitions, I was aware of Hatshepsut’s name, but I had no idea about the depth of her story and her remarkable life.

Hatshepsut ruled Egypt as co-king, not as queen, with her nephew Thutmose III, for twenty years. She was an accomplished politician and strategist who navigated her way to the most powerful position in Egypt.

Kara Cooney is an Egyptologist who provides a very readable and interesting narrative for the general reader, who may be new to reading about Egyptian history as I was. There is a lot of conjecture about Hatshepsut’s life, which will not satisfy other academics, but which makes Hatshepsut seem more alive to a general reader like me.

Cooney reveals the mysteries of Ancient Egypt to us; the lavish ceremonies in honour of the gods, the elaborate tomb building before the death of the pharaoh, and the odds against a child surviving to adulthood, in a land where simply not to be dead was considered healthy.

The most difficult element of Egyptian royal life for a modern readership to understand is the complexities of the family tree. This is a society where brother married sister; where a king had a hundred wives; where pharaohs were often toddlers.

Hatshepsut’s father had been a general who was chosen to become king, in circumstances which are unclear. The complexities of inheriting the throne is caused by the death of male children, multiple wives and the regencies of queens, who perhaps could have ruled in their own right like Hatshepsut did (often because they were their husband’s sister).

Cooney is quite scathing in her accusation that in contrast to Cleopatra, Hatshepsut doesn’t receive the attention she deserves.

She explains that Hatshepsut doesn’t have the image of a seductress who killed herself, and is therefore perceived to be less glamourous and appealing. As a successful pharaoh, I think Hatshepsut can hold her own.

I’m now very interested in Kara Cooney’s work and she posts insightful articles and discussions on Facebook and Twitter.

I hope her book revives interest in Hatshepsut, by bringing her out of the shadowy depths of history, and I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in monarchs and Ancient Egypt.

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About the Author: Daisy Linden

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