A Brief Span of Eternity

Even though I didn't always know her name I have been familiar with the likeness of Egypt's heretical queen since I was little. Her bust, which stands as a silent, though profound testament to one woman who reached out to grasp at eternity is a treasure for the ages. One of history's legendary beauties, Nefertiti is a name which evokes power and wonder even thousands of years after her reign mysteriously ended. That Moran took on the daunting task of reconstructing her story out of the scattered building blocks, nearly completely destroyed, is an undertaking to be in awe of. She admits that much of her novel is pure conjecture, but that is why it is a fictional account and not shelved amongst the biographies. If you can keep in mind that the story is not an official account then it is a highly entertaining tale.

Mutnodjmet is Nefertiti's half-sister, and the unwilling pawn in Egyptian politics. Her wishes and desires are simple: to settle down away from the rivalries of the court with the man she loves and raise a family amongst the herbs of her famous garden. Nothing about her life is permitted to be simple, however, and through her eyes we bear witness to the break with the Temple of Amun and the construction, glory, and eventual downfall of the Amarna Period. She is used both by enemies of the royal family and by Nefertiti herself. Though she manages to grasp some happiness for herself her life ends in tragedy (as explained in the sequel, The Heretic Queen.) The tale she weaves for us, however, is an illuminating and thought-provoking interpretation of the events pieced together by historians and archaeologists.

As deep as the story is, and as captivating as the characters are, the story has a hurried, unfinished feel in some ways. Events or ideas that could have been capitalized on in order to really make the book stand out only get a passing mention or are left with only an obscure explanation.

This is a sad book in many ways, but it really brings one of the most fascinating periods of Egyptian history to life in the splendor and pageantry of a reign during which a pharaoh dared to replace the pantheon of his people and his queen made of herself a living goddess for the world to worship. They revolutionized art, culture, and politics, even though their time of supremacy ended in blood and betrayal. Bravo!