An engrossing biography of the longest-reigning female pharaoh in Ancient Egypt and the story of her audacious rise to power.
Hatshepsut—the daughter of a general who usurped Egypt's throne—was expected to bear the sons who would legitimize the reign of her father’s family. Her failure to produce a male heir, however, paved the way for her improbable rule as a cross-dressing king. At just over twenty, Hatshepsut out-maneuvered the mother of Thutmose III, the infant king, for a seat on the throne, and ascended to the rank of pharaoh.
Shrewdly operating the levers of power to emerge as Egypt's second female pharaoh, Hatshepsut was a master strategist, cloaking her political power plays in the veil of piety and sexual reinvention. She successfully negotiated a path from the royal nursery to the very pinnacle of authority, and her reign saw one of Ancient Egypt’s most prolific building periods.
Constructing a rich narrative history using the artifacts that remain, noted Egyptologist Kara Cooney offers a remarkable interpretation of how Hatshepsut rapidly but methodically consolidated power—and why she fell from public favor just as quickly. The Woman Who Would Be King traces the unconventional life of an almost-forgotten pharaoh and explores our complicated reactions to women in power.
The life of Hatshepsut, Egypt's second female pharaoh, was replete with opulent living, complex royal bloodlines, and sexual energy; in short, the kind of drama that fuels Ancient Egypt's enduring appeal. What it lacked, however, was comprehensive documentation something UCLA Egyptologist Cooney offers in a narrative biography supplemented by scholarly hypotheses that attempt to flesh out the uncertainties. Groomed for an important role as a high priestess from birth, Hatshepsut, through a combination of good fortune and ruthless strategy, "scaled the mountain to kingship." Her role ostensibly "decreed by nothing less than a divine revelation" is shrouded in mystery by a limited historical record concerned too frequently with the "supernatural mechanisms of divine authority." The high points; of this ambitious project are to be found in Cooney's keen sense for the visual elements of Hatshepsut's gender-defying rule and expert inferences on the psychologies of Hatshepsut and her contemporaries. From Hatshepsut's self-perception, political prowess, and lifestyle emerge an image of the "ultimate working mother" and a compelling insight into ancient gender roles. However, Cooney's work will likely appeal most to already well-informed armchair Egyptologists, as unfamiliar nomenclature and the speculative tone can make this a difficult text for the casual reader.
Customer ReviewsSee All
She Who Would Be Queen would have made a more literary title. The acknowledgements and bibliography are actually more useful than the text itself.
Once you take away all the "we don't know"s, "it's likely that"s, and "could have been"s, you're left with a very thin text indeed.
The book might serve as a young reader's introduction to an interesting woman.