I’ve always been a bit fascinated by Nefertiti, so I wanted to love the novel by Michelle Moran. At best, I quite liked it, and I’m disappointed.
I suppose anyone who has a fascination for the people and events of ancient Egypt has their own idea of what the people are like. And yes, I have my own Nefertiti characterised. I didn’t expect Moran to bring my Nefertiti to life, but the one she did bring to life is, at best, two-dimensional with extremely questionable motives.
She behaves so appallingly throughout the book, that it’s hard to fathom why she does what she does most of the time, and her husband Akhenaten, portrayed as a mad despot, is no better.
The novel is told from the point of view of Mutny, Nefertiti’s younger, more virtuous sister. Also a two-dimensional figure, and really annoying in the early part of the book, as her only function seems to be reactionary.
The actions of Nefertiti and Akhenaten have to be called into question.
It’s well known that Akhenaten left Thebes and built a whole new city in the desert. But, in the novel, he also seems to set about systematically destroying Egypt. And, as our only in is Mutny, his motivations are unknown. And he spends so much of the book shouting, or in a rage, it’s hard to see him governing anything.
The trouble with historical fiction is that it really is the author’s interpretation of events. And these events took place so long in the past, that you could make Akhenaten a dancing monkey if you wanted to.
But I think a little too much dramatic licence has been taken, and certain things have been done for effect, rather than to move the story along. And as for the plague … how likely was that in ancient Egypt, really? Wasn’t plague carried by the fleas on rats? And surely ancient Egypt would have been full of cats. So … plague?
Having said all that, I did like it. It’s readable, and it’s dramatic. I just wish I liked the main players more.