Author Rating: D

When We Were Gods: A Novel of Cleopatra (read 11/24/09) AVOID!

Where to start with how dreadful this book is?

Since the author starts out in the acknowledgment with thanking his editors, perhaps his editors are a good place for me to start. I don’t know what actual services Ayesha Pande and Rachel Kahan provided the author, but it had little to do with actual editing of this book.

Just short of a full printed page comes the first editing oversight — “his” instead of “her” — which a previous reader had corrected. Things go downhill from there. There are many instances in the first 75 pages of misplaced punctuation and confused sentence structure.

I will concede that I have only read to about page 75 but anyone who reads any further has a stronger stomach for stupidity than I have.

When things happen is so confused and contradictory that it’s hard to fix your place in time. The heading for chapter one indicates “fifty-one years before the birth of Jesus Christ.” There are no date headings for chapters two, three or four. Chapter five indicates “forty-eight years before the birth of Jesus Christ.”

Wouldn’t you think that three years had passed? You’d be wrong. Maybe. It’s impossible to know.

The character Cleopatra indicates, in conversation with another character, the passage of one year.

This is a major irritation. It is impossible to know with certainty how old Cleopatra is supposed to be. At chapter one she is 18, but how old is she at chapter five? Nineteen? Twenty-one? Who knows?

But that’s not the only time issue here. The author rambles on with general description but then morphs into narration of a specific event. When did this event occur relative to the last event which had been described? Days? Weeks? Months? Who knows?

Falconer claims to have done “research.” In fact, the back jacket blurb claims, “He travels widely to research his novels.” I wonder whether this “research” wasn’t just intimate weekends with his two editors and his agent, perhaps in Egypt.

The way the character of Cleopatra — central and most important to the book — is set forth is ahistorical. She wonders frequently about “finding love.” WTF?

She is presented as spunky and educated but almost completely passive except when she is literally sucking Caesar’s cock. WTF?

Another ongoing irritation is that a map is provided, not printed in the inside cover by a creative publisher, but on two pages before the text begins, presumably as an aid to the reader. Turns out, not so much. Only two out of every ten locations mentioned are indicated on the map.

I persisted as far as I did because my interest in Egyptian history and the actual Cleopatra had been piqued, but it became obvious that there is nothing historically reliable about this book. It is actually nothing more than a bad romance novel.

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