Saturday, October 10, 2015

A Social History of the Pharaoh Hatshepsut

Kara Cooney called her book, The Woman Who Would be King, a social history because she takes the liberty of imagining what Hatshepstu thought and felt. The book isn't fiction. It's a well researched narrative about the reign of a remarkable woman by an Egyptologist who has studied the period extensively.

A woman pharaoh was unknown in Egypt before Hatshepsut. Other women had ruled for more or less extensive periods of time as regents; however, she ruled as the senior pharaoh with her stepson, Thutmose III, for twenty-two years. The period of their joint reign was marked by prosperity and extensive influence in the ancient world. There is no indication that she denied power to Thutmose III, rather it appears that they had a mutually agreeable arrangement.

In addition to the portrait of Hatshepsut, Cooney gives a detailed picture of what life was like for a royal princess. It reads almost like a good novel and enhances our understanding of Hatshepsut without taking liberties with her thoughts or feelings.

I thought Cooney did an excellent job of pointing out where she was taking liberties with the historical record. Her ideas about Hatshepsut's inner life make the book more readable, but she also gives the reader a chance to view the facts. The book has extensive notes that allow the interested reader to go more in depth and to test Cooney's conclusions.

I highly recommend this book if you enjoy reading about ancient Egypt. It's very well written. The pace is good. You may find it hard to put down.

I reviewed this book for Blogging for Books.