The Double Crown: Secret Writings of the Female Pharaoh is a novel about Egypt's female pharaoh Hatshepsut written by South African writer Marie Heese. I liked the book and though I finished it a few months ago, it still lingers in my mind telling me that there is something special about it for me.
1. I love history made real.
History is lovely but it often seems flat, playing out in black and white. Heese tells a story with beautiful, fully-developed characters. The history of this important pharaoh is pulled from its hidden caves nearly lost in history and shown in full colour. Hatshepsut was a real person as most of the people in the book are. Heese has fictionalised details in her life around the real life events documented in Egyptian history. She's done an excellent job. It is written as a diary of Hatshepsut and of her scribe, Mahu.
2. Hatshepsut's battles in the book are all successful women's battles.
Hatshepsut must choose between the love of her life and the power and position she must maintain. For her to give in completely to her love of Senenmut, a non-royal, she will show weakness and her position as a female pharaoh would be put in jeopardy. Many women in positions of power even today must question everything that they do so that there are no chinks in their armour where attacks can be made. The weakness of the emotional female is an easy tool used by a powerful woman's enemies. Very unfortunate, but still quite true.
3. I love the character Senenmut.
He is such a wonderful supportive mate for the pharaoh. He builds her a temple of never before seen magnificence. He loves her and respects her in equal measures. Their love story is a beautiful one.
4. The sadness Hatshepsut must endure is heartbreaking.
Throughout the book she must endure one sadness after another but still maintains at the front of her mind her position and how her actions might affect her kingdom. Sometimes as a reader I found this infuriating. I wanted her to get a break but it keeps the tension high until the end.
5. The research behind the book seems astounding.
Hatshepsut's legacy appears to have been wiped away by her predecessor her stepson Thutmose but bits and pieces have been pieced together to recreate her reign. Who she was has been defined from different perspectives depending on the writer's inclination. Heese needed to read all of this and decide what perspective she would take on this character using the freedom of fiction within the confines of historical fact.
Heese has done an excellent job of merging history and narrative. This is an excellent book, I hgihly recommend.