Nefertiti by Michelle Moran/ posted in: Reading
historical fiction, audio
Nefertiti is remembered as one of the most powerful women to rule in Egypt. She was the wife of Akhenaten, the Pharaoh who tried to change Egypt from a polytheistic society to a monotheistic one and almost destroyed it in the process. Not much is actually known for sure about the life of Nefertiti but this book suggests what might have happened.
Nefertiti was raised to be the wife of Pharaoh. It was assumed that she would marry the eldest son of the current Pharaoh, who was her cousin. When that son died (some said it was murder), his spiteful and angry younger brother became Crown Prince. Nefertiti was supposed to keep him under control. But in order to secure her status as Chief Wife, she encouraged him in his projects and became swept up in his visions of grandeur and insanity.
Together they destroyed the priests of Amun, who was considered one of the chief gods of Egypt. They raised the sun god Aten in Amun’s place and decided to build a new capital in the middle of the desert to glorify Aten. They used the army to build the city in record time while ignoring foreign armies taking over Egyptian territories.
This book is told from the point of view of Mutnodjmet, Nefertiti’s younger sister. She had no desire to be part of the world of the court. She was a gifted herbalist but was told to stay close to Nefertiti as an advisor who could be trusted to tell the truth. As the years passed and Nefertiti became more powerful and paranoid, Mutnodjmet realized that she was being kept as a glorified slave to her sister and needed to find a way to get out.
I listened to this book on audio and I wouldn’t recommend doing that. The performance was good but the action in the book slows down in the middle as Akhenaten and Nefertiti are getting totally out of control. They are so horrible to everyone around them that I had to walk away from this book for a while before I could take it again. If I had been reading, it would have gone more quickly.
I liked the ending that Moran imagines for the characters. It may not be what actually happened but it was satisfying from a story telling perspective. To discuss more about the differences between the book and the historical record, look at the spoiler page.
There is a follow up book called The Heretic Queen that looks at another generation of this family. I will probably read that one at some point.
This book did what good historical fiction should do. It encouraged me to look into the actual history and learn about a period in time that I didn’t know much about.