‘Cleopatra Selene’

Vicky Alvear Shecter’s Cleopatra’s Moon explores what it would have been like to be a well-loved junior member of the famous Cleopatra’s family. Cleopatra Selene was one of the children of Cleopatra and Mark Antony. The book falls within the purview of established historical fiction tradition in presenting an historically-detailed, romantic tale that ends in Cleopatra Selene’s eventual marriage to the Mauretanian king. Think of Lindsey Davis’ story of Vespasian’s mistress, The Course of Honour.

Selena was the Greek moon titan/goddess, so Cleopatra Selene, the daughter of Antony and the Macedonian Cleopatra, bears two Greek names.

Cleopatra’s Moon explores what life must have been like for children of the good-livers, who were more than bon-vivants, but also observers of court etiquette; how their rulers’ suddenly and almost inexplicably changing fortunes might have been perceived by those around them;, and what happened to the Egyptians in the wake of impending doom. Augustus — not one of my favorite Romans — is definitely not one of the good guys, but a shrewd, conniving psychologist.

When the story moves to Rome, life changes substantially for the children who survived Augustus’ eradication of all challengers to his legitimacy. Entrusted to Mark Antony’s wife, Octavia, they live at the court of Augustus under the watchful eye of his very controversial wife Livia. Surviving there is even trickier, but Cleopatra Selene does so, and even gets a happier ever after ending.

Shecter’s coming of age tale is for young adults, which means there is a limit to how far things go — not that the plot is simplified, plus a realistic kid’s eye-view of protocol and duty. It’s also a satisfying, charming story for adults.

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