Nonfiction Friday (posted on Saturday because WordPress won’t let me schedule posts lately)
An engrossing biography of the longest-reigning female pharaoh in Ancient Egypt and the story of her audacious rise to power in a man’s world.
Hatshepsut, the daughter of a general who took Egypt’s throne without status as a king’s son and a mother with ties to the previous dynasty, was born into a privileged position of the royal household. Married to her brother, 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 inconceivable rule as a cross-dressing king. At just twenty, Hatshepsut ascended to the rank of king in an elaborate coronation ceremony that set the tone for her spectacular twenty-two year 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 with the veil of piety and sexual expression. Just as women today face obstacles from a society that equates authority with masculinity, Hatshepsut had to shrewdly operate the levers of a patriarchal system to emerge as Egypt’s second female pharaoh.
Hatshepsut had 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 images were destroyed within a few decades of her death, all but erasing evidence of her 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.
My interest in Egypt’s pharaohs began when I was in elementary school, and each student was assigned a country to do an extensive report on for our school’s big World History event at the end of the year. We would have to research the country, its history, culture, and customs. I was given Egypt, and spent the following months gobbling up any and all information I could find.
Ten year old Me would have loved to have read about a female King. In Kara Cooney’s book, she explores the possibilities behind the rule of Hatshepsut. I enjoyed the author’s theories and ideas. My only issue was how many of these details are in fact only possibilities. I know this is common with tracking the history of pharaohs and Egyptian history, but it was a bit distracting for me as someone who loves facts.
Overall, I enjoyed reading the unique take on a female King. It definitely kept me interested and contemplative.
*I received this book in exchange for an honest review from Blogging For Books.