I was off sick from work one day last week, and I wanted something light and entertaining to read, that would absorb my attention as much as possible whilst I rested. Nefertiti, historical fiction about one of Egypt's Queens, seemed to fit the bill. Told through the eyes of her sister, Mutnodjmet, Nefertiti follows the Queen from the time of her marriage to Akhenaten, a controversial Pharaoh who renounced all of the old gods, taxed their temples heavily and insisted that everyone should worship the sun, Aten. Akhenaten in the novel is driven, greedy and ambitious, a man who possibly murdered his older brother in order to secure the position of Pharaoh for himself. In order to gain more power, Nefertiti must resort to playing her own games, setting different factions of the court against each other and treating her family as pawns. As Mutnodjmet watches the lengths to which Nefertiti will go to carve out a place for herself, she becomes increasingly uncomfortable and yearns for a more simple, carefree life. But will Nefertiti allow her to live her own life?
The quote on the front of my copy of Nefertiti states that it is 'compulsively readable', and I have to agree with that sentiment. I powered through this novel in a day, and it was perfect reading for someone feeling under the weather. There's not a lot of substance in Nefertiti, but there's a lot of plot and events move at a very quick pace, making the book hard to put down. I have a feeling Moran might have been playing hard and loose with some historical facts, but she has created an extremely gripping, readable book that was a lot of fun to read. I loved the Ancient Egyptian setting, and I enjoyed reading about the depths that Nefertiti would sink to in order to consolidate her power.
Whilst I definitely enjoyed Nefertiti, it has it's faults. As I mentioned above, I'm not sure that the story is in keeping with what we know about Akhenaten and Nefertiti from history, and it's very much a light, scandalous type of story, in which some of the characters act like they are living in the modern day. The descriptions of Egypt and the temples/culture were great, but it felt a bit like the main players were superimposed upon this background, rather than truly living in it. To be honest, I normally prefer my historical fiction a bit more serious, a bit more of the time period, but this is such a fun book that it didn't really matter. It's not one to pick up if you want historical accuracy and literary writing, but it is extremely entertaining, and sometimes that's all you want.
Source: Personal copy
First Published: 2007
Edition Read: Quercus, 2008
Score: 3 out of 5