Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Book Review: Nefertiti by Michelle Moran

Nefertiti: A Novel by Michelle Moran

Hardcover: 480 pages
Publisher: Crown; 1 edition (July 10, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307381463
ISBN-13: 978-0307381460

What if your sister was called "The Beautiful One" and was married to a Prince while you can’t even go on a date because your father insists that you wait on her hand and foot? You’d probably be a little more than ticked off and looking for an opportunity to throttle the selfish bitch.

On the other hand, you know that your sister was cashiered into service to the realm and her job was to keep her nutcase husband in line. Maybe you’d put up with her for duty and country.

This is the situation faced by Mutnodjmet, the sister to the Queen of Egypt, Nefertiti.

Michelle Moran has combined a lot of careful research on the Eighteenth Dynasty of the Egyptian Pharaohs with some insight into sisterly duty and love. Told from the point of view of Mutnodjmet (Mutny), Moran weaves a tale of power, love, intrigue, murder, and religious turmoil.

I like historical novels that pay more than lip service to events and settings. Moran has satisfied my desire not to say "oh puhleeze" when an author wanders off into a fantasy world leaving facts dying by the wayside. Historical romances tend to do that (don’t hit me!) because their purpose is to take the reader on a journey away from their own lives and to bask in the great loves and passions, which just happen to be set in some historic time and place.

Moran has found a balance to satisfy we avid watchers of the History Channel with those who dote on Oxygen (a romance-oriented cable channel if you hadn’t heard). About half-way through the book, I googled Nefertiti, Akhenaten, Amunhotep, and others to see how well archeological reports jibed with Moran’s retelling. Pretty darned close, I’m pleased to say. I’d think "what about such and such" and the next few pages answered my questions.

On the other hand, getting into the head of historical figures is nearly impossible with not much more to go on than some statues and bas reliefs found in excavations. This is why Nefertiti is a novel and not an historical treatise. Moran brings the people to life by imbuing them with personality, desire, hate, prejudice, love, and ambition. This is where the novelist shines: making the reader feel for the characters.

Okay, as for Moran’s writing, I found her style flowing and descriptive. I could see the temples, statues, and the Nile barges. I learned a lot about herbal medicines of the period, since Mutny was a healer. Was she really? There is no historical evidence of this, but it fits the persona of Mutny Moran has chosen. So, too, with Nefertiti. Was the most powerful woman in the world really such a petulant and insecure girl? Moran presents a compelling argument given the context of what we do know for historical fact.

I liked this book a lot. I’m glad I found Michelle Moran in my wanderings through the blogosphere. Her site, the History Buff, is a wonderful resource for anyone interested in history. I’d recommend this book highly to any reader and especially to those who have a fondness for watching the History Channel.

If I gave out stars or thumbs-ups, this book would get 4-1/2 out of 5. Why not 5? Well, I’ve got to hold back something, don’t I?


  1. Great review, Marva! I've yet to read a book set in that place and time, so I'm especially looking forward to picking it up.

    With Cleopatra getting all the attention, what a great idea for this writer to do something different.

  2. That kind of accuracy is actually enough to make a guy forget that it's a romance. ;-)

  3. Josephine: Thanks for stopping in. I see you're a reviewer. I'll have to check out what you like and dislike.

    Tomcat: Not a romance. Sorry I was unclear on that.

  4. NP. That makes it all the more appealing. ;-)