Michelle Moran's love affair with
Egypt began in the summer of 1998 while on an
archaeological dig in Israel. The team she was
working with uncovered an ancient Egyptian scarab
(scarab beetles were sacred in ancient Egypt, and
ceramic, stone or cut gem scarabs were used as
talismans and a symbol of the soul). The site of
this mysterious lapis stone in the dirt triggered a
yearning to discover more about ancient Egypt.
Not long after she was wandering through the Egyptian museum in Berlin when she came across the famous bust of Nefertiti (discovered in 1912) and she began to wonder what this famous queen's life would have been like. She found considerable nonfiction written about Nefertiti but could find no fictionalized accounts exclusively about her reign.
Two years later, spurred on by Nefertiti's story she visited Egypt and started gathering books and data which would form the basis of her fictionalized account of Nefertiti's life.
While the key players and many of the events in Nefertiti are a matter of historical record, such as Akhenaten's obsession with the sun-god Aten and his desire to build a divinely inspired city that would eclipse Thebes; how the key players thought and acted, and many of the details are necessarily conjecture.
Although the accuracy of some aspects of the big picture are questionable, it's the little details about everyday and royal life that bring Nefertiti to live, such as the "Nubian" wigs worn by the royal family (big afro hairdos) which were held in place with bees wax and resin, and that the Pharaoh's sandals had pictures of his enemies on the bottom - so that he stepped on them wherever he walked!
In short, this is an addictively engrossing epic that brings to life a fascinating time and place - a good choice for book clubs and lovers of historical fiction.
Coming Soon: The Heretic Queen, a sequel to Nefertiti, publishing is September 2008.
This review was originally published in July 2007, and has been updated for the May 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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