Book Review – The Woman Who Would Be King by Kara Cooney

Title: The Woman Who Would Be KingBook Review Image
Author: Kara Cooney
ISBN: 978-0-307-95676-7
No. of Pages: 320
Genre: Nonfiction
Origins: Crown Publishing
Release Date: 14 October 2014
Bottom Line: A bit dry and lacking historical proof but still interesting

The Woman Who Would Be King by Kara CooneySynopsis:

“Hatshepsut—the daughter of a general who usurped Egypt’s throne and a mother with ties to the previous dynasty—was born into a privileged position in the royal household, and she was expected to bear the sons who would legitimize the reign of her father’s family. Her failure to produce a male heir was ultimately the twist of fate that paved the way for her improbable rule as a cross-dressing king. At just over twenty, Hatshepsut ascended to the rank of pharaoh in an elaborate coronation ceremony that set the tone for her spectacular reign as co-regent with Thutmose III, the infant king whose mother Hatshepsut out-maneuvered for a seat on the throne. Hatshepsut was a master strategist, cloaking her political power plays in the veil of piety and sexual reinvention. Just as women today face obstacles from a society that equates authority with masculinity, Hatshepsut shrewdly operated the levers of power to emerge as Egypt’s second female pharaoh.

Hatshepsut successfully negotiated a path from the royal nursery to the very pinnacle of authority, and her reign saw one of Ancient Egypt’s most prolific building periods. Scholars have long speculated as to why her monuments were destroyed within a few decades of her death, all but erasing evidence of her unprecedented rule. Constructing a rich narrative history using the artifacts that remain, noted Egyptologist Kara Cooney offers a remarkable interpretation of how Hatshepsut rapidly but methodically consolidated power—and why she fell from public favor just as quickly. The Woman Who Would Be King traces the unconventional life of an almost-forgotten pharaoh and explores our complicated reactions to women in power.”

Thoughts:    From a subject matter perspective, The Woman Who Would Be King is fascinating. There are so few examples of women in power in the world, either historical or current, that any chance to look closer at those that existed is extremely important to understanding women’s changing position over the years. Ms. Cooney gives readers the close examination Hatshepsut deserves by providing readers with the rich backdrop that accompanied her rise to power.

Where the presentation is weak is in the distinct lack of concrete details. Not only is her legacy impaired from erasure by the Egyptian kings who followed her, but it suffers from everything she did to maintain her co-regency in a male-dominated society. Changing her portraits to those with masculine traits, using male pronouns, and other gender-masking tricks may have helped Egyptians accept her reign as king, but they made the picture for historians very indistinct. This means that most of the story Ms. Cooney has to present is conjecture. While she does an excellent job of stating what is purely hypothetical, the fact remains that almost all of it is a guess. There are so much speculation about all aspects of her life that readers will feel thoroughly underwhelmed by the multitude of “she might have” or “she could have” that exist throughout the book.

Ms. Cooney attempts to offset her hypotheses with as much fact as possible. This means that the other half of the book is detail upon detail of Egyptian life, politics, geography, and the like. While this is normally a very beneficial element to have in a biography, here it is all a bit too repetitive. The details never change as Hatshepsut rises to the height of her power, but readers still get the same explanations about the Egyptian belief systems and the connection between religious belief and royal power in each chapter. The first few times this occurs, readers can appreciate the attention to detail and the care Ms. Cooney takes to make sure readers understand the nuances of the society Hatshepsut ruled. However, after that, it becomes nothing but a nuisance and a distraction.

What The Woman Who Would Be King needs the most is imagery, something lacking in the advanced review copy but something one hopes the publisher rectifies in the finished version. Most of what historians know about Hatshepsut is because of her prolific building and statuary programs that still exist. There was simply too much for later kings to destroy in their entirety. Therefore, seeing pictures of her funerary temple, her obelisks, her statues, and other kingly imagery throughout Egypt would make Hatshepsut come to life more vividly and work to dispel the uneasy conjecture that exists within a majority of the book. One look at her funerary temple and readers instantly understand just how amazing Hatshepsut was as a leader.

Ultimately, Ms. Cooney does her best to present a fair and thorough narrative of Hatshepsut’s spectacular rise to king of Upper and Lower Egypt and one of the foremost leaders of the ancient world. That there is a dearth of details is not her fault, but the book does suffer because of that. There is simply too much guessing about her life and not enough concrete proof to appease discerning readers. Ms. Cooney attempts to compensate for the lack of evidence by adding as much Egyptian sociological, economic, and political history as possible, but the end result is a repetitive jumble of fact and guesswork that leaves readers wanting more. That Hatshepsut was an amazing woman is in no doubt, and readers will finish The Woman Who Would Be King recognizing that she is just another female leader who will forever remain a mystery because of the ongoing bias against such leadership.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Google Plus
  • Tumblr
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

It’s Monday, November 24th! What Are You Reading?

What Are You Reading?

Hosted by Sheila from Book Journey, this is a weekly event to share what we’ve read in the past week and what we hope to read, plus whatever else comes to mind. Finished Last Week: Currently Reading: Currently Listening: Up Next:          What are you reading?

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Google Plus
  • Tumblr
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Audiobook Review – Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

Title: Breakfast at Tiffany’s Author: Truman Capote Narrator: Michael C. Hall ISBN: B00HX17M3M Audiobook Length: 2 hours, 52 minutes Genre: Fiction Origins: Mine. All mine. Release Date: 1 November 1958 Bottom Line: Much darker than I expected, which I really liked Synopsis: “Golden Globe-winning actor Michael C. Hall (Dexter, Six Feet Under) performs Truman Capote’s…

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Google Plus
  • Tumblr
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Book Review – The Secrets of Life and Death by Rebecca Alexander

The Secrets of Life and Death by Rebecca Alexander

Title: The Secrets of Life and Death Author: Rebecca Alexander ISBN: 978-0-8041-4068-3 No. of Pages: 384 Genre: Science Fiction Origins: Broadway Books Release Date: 7 October 2014 Bottom Line: Eh. Just okay. Synopsis: “In modern day England, Professor Felix Guichard is called in to identify occult symbols found on the corpse of a young girl….

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Google Plus
  • Tumblr
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Book Review – Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix

Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

Title: Horrorstör Author: Grady Hendrix ISBN: 978-1-59474-526-3 No. of Pages: 256 Genre: Horror Origins: Quirk Books Release Date: 23 September 2014 Bottom Line: You’ll never think of big box shopping the same way again! Synopsis: “Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Columbus, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring…

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Google Plus
  • Tumblr
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

It’s Monday, November 17th! What Are You Reading?

What Are You Reading?

Hosted by Sheila from Book Journey, this is a weekly event to share what we’ve read in the past week and what we hope to read, plus whatever else comes to mind. Finished Last Week: Currently Reading: Currently Listening: Up Next:    What are you reading?

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Google Plus
  • Tumblr
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

The Sunday Salon – November 16th Edition

The Sunday Salon

Brrrrr….I go away to Mexico for a business trip and come home to freezing temperatures and snow. I was fine with the freezing temperatures. I am not so fine with the snow. It was beautiful watching it fall, but having to drive in it this morning was a very rude awakening. It doesn’t seem that…

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Google Plus
  • Tumblr
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Book Review – Lives in Ruin by Marilyn Johnson

Lives in Ruin by Marilyn Johnson

m4s0n501 Title: Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble Author: Marilyn Johnson ISBN: 9780062127181 No. of Pages: 288 Genre: Nonfiction Origins: Harper Books Release Date: 11 November 2014 Bottom Line: Truly excellent Synopsis: “Pompeii, Machu Picchu, the Valley of the Kings, the Parthenon—the names of these legendary archaeological sites conjure up…

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Google Plus
  • Tumblr
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Book Review – Citizens Creek by Lalita Tademy

Citizens Creek by Lalita Tademy

Title: Citizens Creek Author: Lalita Tademy ISBN: 9781476753034 No. of Pages: 432 Genre: Historical Fiction Origins: Atria Publishing Release Date: 4 November 2014 Bottom Line: Fascinating piece of history Synopsis: “Cow Tom, born into slavery in Alabama in 1810 and sold to a Creek Indian chief before his tenth birthday, possessed an extraordinary gift: the…

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Google Plus
  • Tumblr
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

It’s Monday, November 10th! What Are You Reading?

What Are You Reading?

Hosted by Sheila from Book Journey, this is a weekly event to share what we’ve read in the past week and what we hope to read, plus whatever else comes to mind. Finished Last Week: Did Not Finish: I used to love the Jack Ryan series when I was younger. There was something about how…

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Google Plus
  • Tumblr
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS