Monday, May 29, 2017

Ancient Egypt for MAY 29

Cleopatra’ TV Series In the Works At Amazon From ‘Black Sails’ Team

Amazon Studios has put in development Cleopatra, a drama series about the famous Egyptian queen, I have learned. The project hails from the Black Sails trio of co-creators/executive producers Jonathan E. Steinberg and Robert Levine and executive producer Dan Shotz.

Written by Levine, Cleopatra is described as a revisionist take on one of history’s most misunderstood women, The Godfather in Ancient Egypt.

Egypt moves bed, chariot of King Tut to new museum
Via Wikimedia Commons

Egypt safely moved two artifacts, a funerary bed and a chariot, belonging to the famed pharaoh King Tutankhamun on Tuesday, from the Egyptian Museum in central Cairo to a new one across the city, which will house a large collection of the ancient monarch's items.
Pantheon by Hamish Steele review – meet the Egyptian gods

Savage, bawdy, irreverent and uproariously funny, this graphic novel has moments of grandeur and insight that make it educational as well as entertaining.

s the treatments of Beowulf and The Epic of Gilgamesh in Russ Kick’s inspiring The Graphic Canon showed, the strangeness and brutality of ancient myth can work surprisingly well in comic-book form. Illustrator Hamish Steele’s tale of the Egyptian gods is another fine example of the genre.

Color me excited. Pantheon will be available from Amazon in August.

Embalming materials for Middle Kingdom vizier Ipi rediscovered on Luxor's west bank
Photos courtesy of the Spanish Mission

The embalming materials of Ipi, vizier and overseer of Thebes and member of the elite during the reign of King Amenemhat I in the early 20th Dynasty, have been rediscovered in his tomb at Deir Al-Bahari on Luxor's west bank.
Within the framework of the Middle Kingdom Theban Project, an international mission under the auspices of the University of Alcalá (UAH, Spain) has uncovered over 50 clay jars filled with embalming materials for the mummification of the ancient Egyptian vizier Ipi during the cleaning of the courtyard under his tomb number (TT 315)

200 yrs of Ramses II, the ‘youth with the bonnet’

CAIRO – 18 May 2017: The great Pharaoh Ramses II did not know he would be called “the beautiful youth with the bonnet” more than 3,000 years after his death by another youth; Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, also known as Sheikh Ibrahim Ibn Abdallah.

In commemoration of Burckhardt’s life and his rediscovery of Abu Simbel Temples 200 years ago, the Egyptian Museum, Ministry of Antiquities, the Swiss Embassy in Cairo and the University of Basel are holding a 15-20 May exhibition of Burckhardt’s finds, some of which had never been publicly displayed.
Ancient stone block discovered at illegal excavation site in Upper Egypt’s Sohag

An Egyptian archaeological committee from Al-Belinna inspectorate in the Sohag town of Abydos found a stone block engraved with the cartouche of the 30th Dynasty King Nectanebo II during the inspection of an old house in the Beni Mansour area, under which the owner was carrying out an illegal excavation.

Egyptian mummies almost 3,000 years old found in Kiev

The two mummies, complete with elaborately decorated stone coffins, were found in Kiev's Pechersk Lavra.

Also known as the Monastery of the Caves, the historic Orthodox Christian monastery revealed its hidden treasures during an audit.

The artefacts were recovered after spending many years hidden in a museum archive with the Egyptian artefacts believed to date as far back as the 11th century BC.

Picture of the week

From the Grand Egyptian Museum Facebook page

Silver cult statue of Horus the Elder, Early 19th dynasty
Discovered in an antiques shop by Howard Carter in April of 1922, the 36.6 pound (roughly 16.7 Kgs) solid silver statue was probably the one used in temple ceremonies, and at that a sole survivor from ancient Egypt. It is now located in the Miho Museum - Shigaraki, Japan.

This cult figure of a falcon-headed deity is one of Egypt's most fascinating and well-documented antiquities. Probably dating from the early 19th dynasty, ca. 1295-1213 BC, it was cast in solid silver and originally overlaid with gold, the latter still being visible in places. The facial features and wig are accentuated by inlaid rock crystal and lapis lazuli. The delicately modeled musculature creates a powerful and austere image clearly intended to convey the divine presence of the god Horus.
As a cult figure, the statue would have been placed in the inner sanctum of a temple. The work was first documented after being found in Egypt during World War I and was subsequently displayed in the Cairo shop of Greek art dealer Nicolas Tano.
During that time, it was examined by experts from both the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Howard Carter, the celebrated archaeologist who led the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen, noted it in his diary in April 1922. Carter too recognized the importance of the piece. Despite the heavy encrustation, the quality of the silver was evident.

[Text from the website of the Miho Museum]
Photo 2: Ancient Art & Numismatics

Monday, May 22, 2017

Ancient Egypt this week: Sing, study, explore, but be polite

Recently discovered antiquities exhibited for the first time at Luxor museum

Instead of storing the recently discovered antiquities as it would usually happen, the ministry of antiquities decided to temporary exhibit a collection of the antiquities discovered in Userhat tomb at Luxor museum.

Dr. Khalid El-Enany inaugurated the exhibition at Luxor museum on “International Museum Day 2017”

Were the ancient Egyptians polite?
Ptahhotep seated before offerings, smelling jar of perfume; 4 registers offering bearers (Amazonaws)

Before we understand politeness in an ancient culture, we must first understand ‘politeness’ in the modern world. This is by no means easy; politeness is fluid, changing from person to person, culture to culture. Fundamentally politeness is a key means to maintain interpersonal relationships, through behaviour and speech.

Behaviour is deeply embedded within individual cultural psyches, reinforced by the social groups. As children we are taught to say please and thank you, or to refer to our elders with special terminology to infer respect. In British society, certain behaviour is encouraged and considered polite - eating with a knife and fork, keeping your elbows off the table - standard parental ways to help children understand what is expected of them socially.

Funerary bed of King Tut packed for transfer to Grand Egyptian Museum

A team from the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) began packing on Monday King Tutankhamun’s treasured collection at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square in a step towards transferring to its permanent location at the GEM.

Tarek Tawfik, GEM supervisor-general, said that the team is now packing the golden king’s funerary bed which is made of wood gilded with golden sheets and decorated with the head of the goddess Sekhmet.
Want to study Egyptology online?

Manchester University is now recruiting for its accredited 3 year Certificate in Egyptology which is taught entirely online.

This means that you do not need to physically move to Manchester (or the United Kingdom) to study on this course. It is also sufficiently flexible to allow you to maintain your current employment.

This three year programme provides the opportunity for the serious, academic study of Egyptology at one of the leading Universities in the U.K. It is led by internationally recognised scholars and draws upon the important Egyptological collections of the University's Museum and Library. It attracts students of varying backgrounds from all over the world.

Saying Goodbye To Your Favorite Mummy

My family has a tradition that we honor at the beginning of every school year that we call “goodbye old pals.” As kids, it was a way to celebrate the start of the new school year and, maybe for our parents, the fact that we weren’t going to be around the house as much (but don’t worry – they always threw us a “hello old pals” party at the end of the school year). Well, today I’m throwing myself and Pinahsi, our New Kingdom mummy from Abydos, our own little goodbye old pals party here in the Artifact Lab, because he is leaving the lab on Monday to go back on exhibit in our Secrets and Science gallery.

Egyptian band breathes life into Pharaonic music (with musical videos)

An Egyptian band offers its audience a musical journey to the time of the pharaohs, through melodies inspired by inscriptions painted on temple walls, songs played with ancient musical instruments and lyrics sung by musicians dressed like pharaohs.

Some videos that came from this project.

DESCENDANTS OF THE PHARAOS - Piece # 1 - 20-9-2012 - احفاد الفراعنة - مقطوعة 1

Ancient Burial Chamber Uncovered in Egypt, With 17 Mummies ... So Far
CreditMohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

Some magnificent photographs.

Archaeological workers in Egypt unearthed an ancient human burial site with at least 17 intact mummies near the Nile Valley city of Minya, according to news agency reports.

The mummies, discovered at a depth of about 25 feet, are believed to be the bodies of priests and officials, The Associated Press reported.

Opening a golden box

During restoration work carried out on Queen Hetep-Heres’s funerary collection at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square in Cairo, a wooden box filled with a large number of pieces of gold foil was discovered as well as a detached piece of paper with the word Amenopete or Amenophis written on it.

Islam Ezzat, a member of the scientific team at the Ministry of Antiquities, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the story of this discovery went back to 2015 when curators at the Egyptian Museum had stumbled upon a wooden box within the storage area in the collection dedicated to Queen Hetep-Heres.

Picture of the week

From the Grand Egyptian Museum Facebook page

Egyptian Bronze Votive Oxyrhynchus Fish, Late Period - Ptolemaic, 664-30 BC

This votive fish wears the crown of Hathor and uraeus. Its neck is engraved with a usekh collar and its eyes are inlayed with bronze and silver.

These fish, the medjed, a species of elephant-fish in the Nile river, were believed to have eaten the private member of Osiris after his brother Seth had dismembered and scattered the god’s body. A settlement in Upper Egypt, Per-Medjed, was named after the fish and is now better known under its Greek name Oxyrhynchus.

[Source: pba-auctions]

No automatic alt text available.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Video Friday: Temples and Tombs

I saw several tombs and temples on my January visit. I was privileged to see the recently opened (to the public) tombs of Nefertari and Seti I and to return to the beautiful Temple at Abydos. While nothing compares with actually visiting these sites, here are some videos that, I hope, capture some of the magic and grandeur.

The Tomb of Nefertari

The Temple of Seti I at Abydos

Tomb of Seti 1 (KV 17) at Luxor

The Tomb of Ay 

MovingAbu Simbel

Luxor Temple 

Temple of Kom Ombo

Monday, May 15, 2017

Ancient Egypt this week: Gardens, Tombs, and Galleries

Ministry announces 18 mummies discovered in central Egypt

CAIRO – 13 May 2017: Archaeologists at Cairo University have discovered catacombs including 18 non-royal mummies in Minya governorate, south of Cairo, Antiquities Minister Khaled Anani announced on Saturday.

During a press conference held near the in Touna el-Gebel district, which hosted the discovery, the ministry said that burial shafts were found in the area, adding that the shafts led to a number of corridors inside a cachette of mummies. 

The new Egyptian galleries at the World Museum

On Friday, 28 April 2017 at 9.45 am, I was sitting outside the World Museum in Liverpool waiting impatiently for it to open. Why? It was the official opening of the newly refurbished and expanded Egyptian galleries we’d been waiting nearly two years to see.

I headed straight up to the third floor with my trusty camera in hand. Even before getting into the galleries, I was impressed.
Burial chamber of recently unearthed 13th Dynasty Pyramid in Dahshur uncovered
Photo Nevine El-Aref

The Egyptian archaeological mission from the Ministry of Antiquities uncovered the burial chamber of a 13th Dynasty Pyramid discovered last month at Dahshur archaeological site.

Adel Okasha, head of the mission and the general director of the Dahshur site, explained that after removing the stones that covered the burial chamber, the mission discovered a wooden box engraved with three lines of hieroglyphics.

These lines are rituals to protect the deceased and the name of its owner.

Another story at The Guardian: Burial chamber of a 'Pharaoh's daughter' dating back 3,700 years is found in Egypt alongside jars filled with her ORGANS.

You might also find the article in Live Science interesting as it contains additional details.


An ancient instrument used to measure the waters of the Nile so Egyptian farmers would know whether to expect famine or flood.
In ancient Egypt, the behavior of the Nile could mean life or death each harvest season. So, long before the Aswan Dam was constructed to manage the flooding of the great river, Egyptians invented an instrument to measure the waters in order to predict the Nile’s behavior: the nilometer.

Ancient Egyptian limestone relief recovered from Paris
Photos Ahmed Shata

Egypt recovered a limestone relief and a collection of 44 cosmetic containers from France.

Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities officially received today an ancient Egyptian limestone relief, which has been recovered from France, during a ceremony held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs headquarters in Cairo.

Ancient Birds, Bats & Other Animals Painting Found On The Wall Of 4,000-Year-Old Tombs In Egypt
Photo : Egyptahotep/ You Tube

A few days ago, a group of archaeologist revealed the ancient drawing of Mongoose, a colorful pelican and various bats on the wall of 4,000-year-old tombs in Egypt. The tombs are residing at the Beni Hassan Cemetery.

According to Lockwood Press, the tombs were excavated and detailed in publication over a century ago by archaeologist Percy Newberry and his colleagues. Now using modern day technology Evan and other archeologists at Macquarie University's Australian Centre for Egyptology are re-surveying the tombs.

In The Footsteps Of Egyptologist Howard Carter

Carter's personal set of tools.

With recent news confirming there’s more to Tutankhamun’s tomb than previously thought, we visit Howard Carter's house to see where he worked on one of modern history's biggest discoveries.
Cosmetics, Perfume, and Hygiene in Ancient Egypt

For the ancient Egyptians life was a celebration, and so, just as one would want to look one's best at any party, personal hygiene was an important cultural value. The Egyptians bathed daily, shaved their heads to prevent lice or other problems, and regularly used cosmetics, perfumes, and breath mints. So important was one's personal appearance that some spells from The Egyptian Book of the Dead stipulate that one cannot speak them in the afterlife if one is not clean and presentable, and it is clear this means in a physical sense.

Paintings of ancient Egypt in Pompeii garden show just how cosmopolitan the Romans were
A typical Nilotic scene.SSPES

There has been much debate about the purpose of these artworks, known as Nilotic landscapes.

The garden of a large ancient villa in Pompeii was home to stunning paintings depicting the Nile river flowing among green, lush landscapes. These artworks could shed light on the way the Romans viewed the ancient Egyptian culture, and how they integrated it into their own.

For more photos of the paintings and a short video, see Archaeologists discover elaborate 'cosmopolitan' paintings of ancient Egypt in a Roman villa in Pompeii.

Ancient Egyptian baby mummy brought back to life

Friday, May 12, 2017

Chasing Magic: A review

No automatic alt text available.

Having spent a fair amount of time researching magical systems for my own books, Queen of Heka and Reeds of Times, the topic holds genuine interest for me. Moreover, I'm always interested in how other writers incorporate it in their works without resorting to the heavy-handed, gee-whiz kind of writing that curls my hair. So, when I was offered the opportunity to review an ARC of Chasing Magic. the fourth anthology by CW Publishing House and the first in the Fantasy genre, I jumped at it.

Synopsis:  CWPH presents twenty-two Fantasy stories by international authors, both established and new to the trade. This collection features some of the familiar elements with a twist—from elves and unicorns to witches, talking trees, and dragons—mixed with reworkings of some classics from previously unexplored perspectives and new fantastical tales with their own distinct flavor.

Delve into these extraordinary worlds and experience the magic, mayhem, mystery, and wonder of Chasing Magic.

My take: This collection's approach to magic is eclectic; in some cases, magic only lightly touches a story and veers  toward classical fantasy in a realm where magic is possible. This approach worked for me, because immersing myself in pure magic for extended periods of time makes my head swim. Both fantasy and magic aficionados will enjoy the variety of stories in the Chasing Magic collection, because each one takes you to a different world, as this small sampling of the stories indicates.

Honor by Jennifer Della’Zanna begins with what might be an ordinary tale of  sword and sorcery and a warrior, albeit a woman with some characteristics of an amazon. As you learn about how she became a hero as she awaits her Confirmation, you think you know where this story is going. You would be wrong.

Morríghan by Stacey Jaine McIntosh retells the King Arthur story from Morgan le Fey's POV and is reminiscent of Mists of Avalon, one of my all-time favorite books.

Aomedus Fell by Kathrin Hutson is wonderfully sardonic.  I mean, you have to love this kind of writing:
 Aomedus—goddess of independent thought and strength. She was only a replacement deity, having been created just a handful of centuries before. The Olympian gods had returned to their Mount long ago, when the fall of Greece had become an imminent tragedy.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Ancient Egypt this week: A garden, Belzoni, and lots of sites

A New Look at the Little-Known Pyramids of Ancient Nubia

In 2011, photographer Christopher Michel chanced upon an online course about ancient Egypt and signed up. What was intended to be a diversion led, some six years later, to a voyage of 8,509 miles, to the orange deserts of Sudan.

Although it’s less famous than the grouping of pyramids at Giza in Egypt, the complex at Meroë in Sudan is remarkable. More than 200 pyramids, primarily dating from 300 B.C. to A.D. 350, mark the tombs of royalty of the Kingdom of Kush, which ruled Nubia for centuries.

Modern technology and research has restored an ancient Egyptian woman, Meritamun, creating a unique teaching tool for medicine and health science. Reconstructed from a mummified head dating back at least two millennia, the fine-featured ancient Egyptian face looks out from an artist’s studio in the forested hills of rural Victoria.

Unique funerary garden unearthed in Thebes

During excavation work in the area around the early 18th Dynasty rock-cut tombs of Djehuty and Hery (ca 1500­‐1450 BCE) in Draa Abul Nagaa necropolis, a Spanish archaeological mission unearthed a unique funerary garden.

Since this is the first time such a garden has been found, there are a ton of stories about it. Here are a few more stories:
Royal workshops of Pharaoh Ramesses II tell story of ancient copper trade

Pi-Ramesses was once ancient Egypt's richest, most vibrant city. In the 13th century BC, Pharaoh Ramesses II decided to move his capital there and early in his reign, an impressive number of structures were built – including temples, residences, docks, and military facilities.

Materials such as copper were essential to this construction effort. Scientist Frederik W Rademakers, from UCL Institute of Archaeology (London), told IBTimes UK: "Copper at that time was very widely used in a variety of ways – to build artefacts used in funerary rites and temples for instance. After the initial phase of architectural development in Pi-Ramesses, when the army of Ramses II was stationed in the city, some of the copper might have been used in the covers of military chariots and in weapons."

An Illustrated 19th-Century Japanese Travelogue of Egypt
From Charles Bowles, A Nile Voyage of Recovery

The image of Egypt as conceived by innovative Japanese publisher Takejirō Hasegawa was well outside the dominant paradigm and thus startling to Western eyes.

The earliest European photographers working in Egypt emphasized size and stillness in their images, strategically placing human beings in their shots to give a sense of scale. As tourism to Egypt became more common in the later 19th century, albums full of this type of commercial photography were commissioned as (expensive) souvenirs for wealthy Western travelers.

5 Things to Consider When Dealing With Egyptian Artefacts
Photograph courtesy of National Museums Liverpool

National Museums Liverpool's World Museum is about to open its doors to the new Ancient Egypt gallery.

In the face of the sheer number of coffins, mummies and Egyptian artefacts that are now on display, some will wonder at how they were conserved. Luckily, we've got Organics Conservator and Icon member, Tania Desloge, from the museum to share her conservator secrets. So, here are a few of the many factors that had to be considered during treatment:

Belzoni’s watercolours of Seti I’s tomb at the Bristol Museum
Photos © Julia Thorne

Born in Padua, Italy, in 1778, Giovanni Battista Belzoni led a colourful life. He studied hydraulic engineering in Rome when he was young, but then moved to the Netherlands and worked as a barber. He subsequently joined a circus in England, performing as a strongman, where he’d carry up to 12 people at a time across the circus floor (he stood in at 6′ 7″; impressive, even by today’s standards). An obvious career path, wouldn’t you agree!

In 1812, Belzoni and his wife Sara found themselves in Egypt, working on a hydraulic engineering project.

Antiquities lab on the Giza Plateau

A few metres from the southern side of the Great Pyramid on the Giza Plateau outside Cairo, Egypt’s first on-site laboratory is set to restore the 1,264 pieces of the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu’s second solar boat, which has remained in situ for 4,500 years after it was buried to ferry him to eternity.
Skeletons Of Two Possible Eunuchs Discovered In Ancient Egypt

Skeleton B21 from Ptolemaic era Quesna, Egypt. With its immature bones and tall stature, this individual might have been intersex.

Recent excavations at the Ptolemaic-Roman site of Quesna in Egypt have revealed two skeletons of individuals who might have been eunuchs. But these people’s above-average height and other skeletal irregularities might also reflect a congenital condition rather than castration.

Khoiak Festivities podcast

The Religious Year (4/12). In the fourth month of the year, the Egyptians celebrated the end of the Nile flood (Akhet). With grand ceremonies to Hathor, Osiris and the god Sokar, they brought the first season of the year to a close.


Prince Mentuherkhepshef is unique.

He is the only prince to be buried in his own decorated tomb (KV19) in the Valley of the Kings.
Mentuherkhepshef was a son of King Ramesses IX from Egypt’s 20th Dynasty.

Seven Egyptian sites celebrated in World heritage day

CAIRO – 19 April 2017: April 18 marked international world heritage day, an annual celebration hosted by UNESCO promoting cultural heritage and local archeological sites around the world. This year 7 Egyptian archeological and ancient sites are listed by UNESCO to world heritage day list of archeological sites.

Maged Mekhail sculpts his voice in bronze at Cairo's Karim Francis Gallery
Photo: Soha Elsirgany

“What put me on this track were two sculptures I made for the SODIC Second Sculpture Symposium in 2012, which was themed around chairs. I looked to ancient Egypt for my research,” the artist told Ahram Online.

A common ancient Egyptian theme, the seated figure is often used for kings, gods and scribes to evoke their power and majesty.

Friday, May 5, 2017

April Reads

For the Most Beautiful: A Novel of the Trojan War by Emily Hauser

Synopsis:  The hidden tale of the Trojan War: a novel full of passion and revenge, bravery and sacrifice, now is the time for the women of Troy to tell their story.

Three thousand years ago a war took place where legends were born: Achilles, the greatest of the Greeks, and Hector, prince of Troy. Both men were made and destroyed by the war that shook the foundations of the ancient world.

But what if there was more to the tale of these heroes than we know? How would the Trojan War have looked as seen through the eyes of its women? Krisayis, the ambitious, determined daughter of the High Priest of Troy, and Briseis, loyal and passionate princess of Pedasus, interweave their tales alongside Homer’s classic story of the rage of Achilles and the gods of Olympus. What follows is a breathtaking tale of love and revenge, destiny and the determination, as these two brave women, the heroes of the Trojan War, and the gods themselves come face to face in an epic battle that will decide the fate of Troy.

A glorious debut full of passion and revenge, loyalty and betrayal, Emily Hauser breathes exhilarating new life into one of history's greatest legends.

My take: While I'm not sure this novel breathed new life into the legend as it claims, it was a fun read after I got over the anachronisms in writing style and a less than faithful interpretation of The Iliad.

I understand and admire the whole idea of giving voice to the Trojan women, particularly these two women upon whom many of the events of The Iliad turn, but about whom we have little insight in the original work. Hauser didn't need to do it, however, at the expense of changing things that didn't need to be changed to make the novel work. Like making Aeneas one of Priam's sons instead of the son of Aphrodite and Anchises, which sort of throws off the whole founding of Rome by escaping from Troy with his elderly father on his back. Nor were Patroclus and Paris the simpering fools she made them out to be, and Achilles was certainly not the sensitive new, age guy with a major character flaw. If you're not familiar with The Iliad, it might not bother you; if you are, it takes you out of the story as you scratch your head and wonder why. Taking the reader out of the story is never a good thing.

I thought Hauser did best when she stayed in Krisayis and Briseis's points of view. They lived and breathed .their world, and then they grew and moved beyond it. I also enjoyed how she slyly slipped Homer into the novel with the implication he might have changed the ending of the story to cover up his lover's escape from the doomed city.

I also liked the chapters told from the gods' point of view, because the Greek gods often were silly, vain, and petty. However as much as I liked those chapters, they didn't feel well-integrated into the book and I often interrupted the flow of the Krisayis/Briseis narrative.

Overall, it was a fun, fast read. It  prompted me to reread Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Firebrand, about Cassandra of Troy, which was not a bad thing.

Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life  by Sally Bedell Smith

Synopsis:  Prince Charles brings to life the real man, with all of his ambitions, insecurities, and convictions. It begins with his lonely childhood, in which he struggled to live up to his father’s expectations and sought companionship from the Queen Mother and his great-uncle Lord Mountbatten. It follows him through difficult years at school, his early love affairs, his intellectual quests, his entrepreneurial pursuits, and his intense search for spiritual meaning. It tells of the tragedy of his marriage to Diana; his eventual reunion with his true love, Camilla; and his relationships with William, Kate, Harry, and his grandchildren.

My take: Indulging myself with biographies of royals is a guilty pleasure. Moreover, I've always liked Prince Charles; probably because when I was a teenager, he was close enough to my age to be a poster boy. Later, I rather liked his devotion to Camilla, famously called the Rottweiler, even though he was married to a woman considered uber beautiful by the rest of the world. Yeah, he was a cheat, but you knew he couldn't be turned by a pretty face. So, I was pretty excited when this biography became available; because, admiration aside, most of my knowledge of PC came from reading biographies of other members of the royal family.

It says something that I ripped through the book in two days. Like it was interesting, maybe? I knew lots of bits and pieces, and this biography put them in a chronological order that provided a comprehensive and sympathetic portrayal of Prince Charles without trying to paper over his very obvious flaws.

Yes, Charles was the whinger everyone accused him of being.  Sometimes.  But by the end of the book, I found him to be an admirable person, someone I might want to know. He's pretty damn interesting, and he's accomplished a lot.  For example, 825,000 underprivileged students got their start in life via the Prince's Trust, including Idris Elba. Charles brought poetry and Shakespeare back into the English school system. He sounded the alarm on climate change before most people knew the word (and was considered a bit loony for doing so.) His organic gardens and farms are ahead of their time. Yes, he has had a fair number of losing projects as well. But you know, he could have just stayed in the palace eating bon-bons, so let's give the man a little credit. If that isn't enough, he looks down on Trump, and Trump doesn't want to meet with him when he goes to England to meet the Queen. So, two thumbs up for Prince Charles.

I recommend this book if you're looking for a biography of a complex man in a complex time.

The Firebrand by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Synopsis:  Blending archaeological fact and legend, the myths of the gods and the feats of heroes, Marion Zimmer Bradley breathes new life into the classic tale of the Trojan War-reinventing larger-than-life figures as living people engaged in a desperate struggle that dooms both the victors and the vanquished, their fate seen through the eyes of Kassandra-priestess, princess, and passionate woman with the spirit of a warrior.

My take:  An Iliad for women! This novel does what For the Most Beautiful does, but with gravitas.

I read this book when it first appeared in the 1980s, and it was a pleasure to read it again. So often books that engaged my younger self no longer satisfy my older incarnations. (Lookin' at almost every D.H. Lawrence novel.) This one remained interesting and engaging. I liked and still like the idea of re-interpreting the story through the eyes of the priestess Kassandra (Cassandra),

The story was inspired by and deviated substantially from the Kassandra mythos of The Illiad.  Unlike  For the Most Beautiful, the deviations moved the story forward in a way that could not have happened by close adherence to the original. It  maintained a ring of "truth" that  brought a Greek fable to life  and dispelled some of misogyny that is characteristic of Greek epics. Moreover, Bradley's take on the Amazons, Centaurs, and Achilles go a long way toward making myth seem more like history. With Firebrand and Mists of Avalon, MZB created some of the first kick-ass heroines who now dominate fantasy and dystopian literature today.

Be forewarned, however, both books celebrate the worship of the Divine Mother and are not overly tolerant of male gods, whether they be pagan (Firebrand) or Christian (Mists).

Diana in Search of Herself: Portrait of a Troubled Princess Sally Bedell Smith

Synopsis:  For all that has been written about Diana--the books, the commemorative magazines, the thousands of newspaper articles--we have lacked a sophisticated understanding of the woman, her motivations, and her extreme needs. Most books have been exercises in hagiography or character assassination, sometimes both in the same volume. Sally Bedell Smith, the acclaimed biographer, former New York Times reporter, and Vanity Fair contributing editor, has written the first truly balanced and nuanced portrait of the Princess of Wales, in all her emotional complexity.

My take:  The hard-core Diana fans will not like this book as it opens some rather ugly doors about their beloved Princess. I felt compelled to read this book after reading the Prince Charles biography. Unlike many reviewers, I don't think Smith hated Diana; I think she felt sorry for her.

Having read a number of biographies about the late princess, I've come away with the idea of a woman who DID do many admirable things, but was seriously troubled. The interesting thing about this book for me was that it put together, in a very orderly fashion, both sides of Diana.

Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign by Jonathan Allen

Synopsis:  It was never supposed to be this close. And of course she was supposed to win. How Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election to Donald Trump is the tragic story of a sure thing gone off the rails. For every Comey revelation or hindsight acknowledgment about the electorate, no explanation of defeat can begin with anything other than the core problem of Hillary's campaign--the candidate herself. . .

Moving blow-by-blow from the campaign's difficult birth through the bewildering terror of election night, Shattered tells an unforgettable story with urgent lessons both political and personal, filled with revelations that will change the way readers understand just what happened to America on November 8, 2016.

My take:  I, for one, sure wanted to know what happened. Although not a huge Hillary fan, she was more acceptable to me than the alternatives (as in Trump, most of the Republican candidates, and Bernie). Acceptable, but not a great generator of enthusiasm in moi or, it appears, a great many other people.

First of all, it's a fascinating read, although it lacks the insight and drama of Game Change, the book about the 2008 campaign. Nonetheless, I read the entire book on two flights between St. Louis and New York City (and while hanging around the airports lounges in both places.) The reviews, much like Hillary herself, are almost entirely on either end of the spectrum. You either loved it (33%) or hated it (34%). All the other reviews were kind of MEH!

At some point, after repeated statements that her speech writers never knew Hillary well enough to put inspiring words in her mouth, I started looking at her as a character in a novel. A protagonist, if you will. And what do we expect of a protagonist?
A memorable protagonist must touch on something a reader can identify with or be transfixed by.  A reader doesn't have to necessarily want to meet your main character or even like them, but they must want to read about them.
So,  I hearkened back to a dialog between me and my writing coach that occurred after the first draft of almost every scene. If Hillary was my protagonist, the conversation might go like this.

Coach: What does your character want?
Me: Easy. To be President.
Coach: That's her external goal. What's the deeper goal? Why does she want/need to be president?
Me: She never says. In fact, she goes to great lengths to hide that from everybody, except maybe Huma Abedin and Bill.
Coach: Does her short term goals conflict with her long term goals?
Me. Definitely. Can you say email scandal, Clinton foundation, and Wall Street speeches?
Coach: So is there conflict between what your character needs and what your character wants?
Me: Oh, yes, see the above.
Coach: So what is the deeper goal that she can't reach because of that conflict? And what is she going to do to change that?
Me: I got nothin', man!

And there you have it, Hillary Clinton is a protagonist that we don't know anything about except that she wants to be president and has some conflicts. That appears to be the way the campaign went as well. And to paraphrase agents rejecting manuscripts with ciphers as main characters, "the country couldn't summon sufficient enthusiasm . . ."

We might have the makings of a tragedy here.