The Sunday Salon – in Egypt with Nefertiti

I started to read Nefertiti by Michelle Moran a bit ago and just in the last few days have picked it up again. Nefertiti is most irritating – insufferably self-confident, arrogant, demanding, lusting after power, manipulative, superior, full of her own self-importance and well, beautiful; just as you would expect her to be, a jealous selfish queen. I’m about half way through the book now and am enjoying it despite my dislike for Nefertiti, maybe she’ll become more likeable but I doubt it. As I read, ancient Egypt comes to life as Moran describes the building of the new city of Amarna, which Nefertiti boasted:

… would be a city unlike anything that had ever come before it, a jewel on the east bank of the Nile, that would write our family’s name in eternity. ‘When future generations speak of Amarna’, she vowed,’they will speak of Nefertiti and Ahkenaten the Builder.’

She was right, all these centuries later we are still fascinated with Nefertiti and this period of the 18th Dynasty. But I am more fascinated by her sister as described in this novel. I hadn’t heard of Mutnodjmet (Mutny) before, but she is presented as a much more likeable character. Younger than Nefertiti, and with a different mother, she is at first swept along as Nefertiti is chosen to marry Amunhotep, the young Prince of Egypt. However, she longs for a life of her own, with the man of her choice, Nakhtmin, a general in the army and worst of all a “commoner”. When Mutny becomes pregnant Nefertiti and Akhenaten (as he re-named himself when he renounced the god Amun in favour of Aten), by then rulers of the whole of Egypt, will not accept this, banishing Nakhtmin to fight the Hittites, and bringing about Mutny’s miscarriage. This is as far as I have read – it looks as though an immense struggle between the sisters is about to explode.

private livesReading Nefertiti reminded me of another book on Egypt: The Private Lives of the Pharoahs by Dr Joyce Tyldesley, which I bought a few years ago, only for it to sit unread on the bookshelves, until now. This book looks at the pyramids, how and why they were built; why the 18th Dynasty died out; and who was the boy-pharoah Tutankhamun. I’ve only dipped into this book so far, but it promises much and has a Further Reading section with yet more books to look out for. I see on Amazon that Tyldesley has also written, amongst many other books, Nefertiti:Egypt’s Sun-Queen . I really must read this as well.

I think I may stay in ancient Egypt for a while.