Hatshepsut, the daughter of a general who took Egypt's throne without status as a king’s son and a mother with ties to the previous dynasty, was born into a privileged position of the royal household. Married to her brother, she was expected to bear the sons who would legitimize the reign of her father’s family. Her failure to produce a male heir was ultimately the twist of fate that paved the way for her inconceivable rule as a cross-dressing king. At just twenty, Hatshepsut ascended to the rank of king.
Very detail-oriented and extremely well-researched biography of a ruler
who was almost lost to antiquity through the desecration of her monuments. Hatshepsut was a woman who ruled as king during a time Egypt was in prosperity (instead of in crisis with no where else to
turn to). She rose the ladder to become king without coups or assassinations, ruled during a time of peace, and ruled for a significant stretch of time. She commissioned multiple monuments, remade
temple structures that were falling to ruin in stone, brought back the celebration of forgotten festivals throughout the country, brought in riches and gold from expeditions and military success,
created architectural innovations including beautiful obelisks taller than any built before her time, and never demanded that the structures of kingship bend to her will - instead she conformed to
fit what was best for her country and her gods. This eventually led her to transform her outward appearance into a male ruler.
The book includes fact as well as hypotheses on what Hatshepsut or those around her might have felt during her rise in power. Ancient Egypt leaves little record of this for us, however, Dr. Cooney is a well-educated source in which to form an opinion as to how these changes affected the country of Egypt as a whole down to the individual person looking in on this transition from male to female rulers.
Dr. Cooney is very clear when she is speculating and lets the reader in on how she forms her conclusions. She presents evidence (with detailed footnotes containing further information and/or where to find it), and presents different sides of an issue before offering her conclusion. Her injection of emotions is based on hard study of the time period and the people of that time period. She also does not cement Hatshepsut into one emotion for a given moment. There are different ways ceremonies or moments in her life could have affected Hatshepsut, and Dr. Cooney presents them concisely.
As Dr. Cooney concludes, "For Hatshepsut, her unprecedented success was rewarded with short memory, while the failures of other female leaders from antiquity will be forever immortalized in our cultural consciousness." I found Dr. Cooney's book fascinating and entertaining to read. I learned a lot from it and also want to learn more because of it. I think Dr. Cooney creates a new type of biography with grace and intelligence. I highly recommend this book to history fans.
"Descendants of Avalon"
Released via Inklings Publishing
("The Forgotten" volume 2)
Reviewed and awarded the
2016 Indie Editor's Choice
by the Historical Novel Society.
Long listed for the Historical Novel Society 2017 Indie Award.
Goodreads profile at: https://www.goodreads.com/JElse