“How does one categorize a female leader who does not follow the expected course of disaster and shame, one who instead puts everything to rights in the end, in a way so perfect that her masculine beneficiaries just sweep her victories under the rug and ignore her forever?… Female rulers are often implicitly branded as emotional, self-interested, lacking in authority, untrustworthy, and impolitic.”
Okok, so before I start this I just want to do a quick disclaimer: if you’re sensitive whatsoever to the words like penises, handjobs, orgasms, or any sexual activity, this book may not be for you.
I’m only saying his because if you didn’t know already, Ancient Egypt was damn active when it came to things like that. Ok that’s it. On to the review.
If you haven’t noticed or got the idea yet, I’m pretty much of an Ancient Egypt freak by now. It’s 2017, and ever since I finished The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran, it kinda just hit me that I needed more. Like, I just needed more. Ramesses II and Nefertari weren’t enough to satisfy me. I just needed to learn more about this ancient world and all of it’s mysteries that are yet to be discovered.
So I did pick up a few books about Ancient Egypt, but when I stumbled upon this book, I was surprised that I hadn’t heard of this woman before. And after I read the book, I was shocked, to say the least. The Woman Who Would Be King by Kara Cooney is an autobiography on Hatshepsut’s life, from her younger childhood years up until her death.
I enjoyed the book a lot. Not only is it my third non-fiction book that I’ve read, but it gave me a really good insight into Ancient Egypt, especially the political system and the religious beliefs. I had always heard of Isis and Osiris, Nefertiti, and Tutankhamun, but I had never ever heard of Hatshepsut. Picking up this book brought me so much joy and knowledge, because I learned so much in a little over 250 pages about the ancient Egyptian world than I thought I would. It also brought new people to my knowledge of the political system, mainly Thutmose I, Thutmose II, Thutmose III, Senenmut, Ahmose, Mutnofret, Useramen, Neferure, Nefrubity, and so many other people who were highly influential during Hatshepsuts rise to power and during her reign.
Hatshepsuts story is, no doubt, one worth telling. If you’re a feminist, which we should all be, Hatshepsuts rise to becoming Pharaoh, and the way she reigned for almost two decades, is an inspiration for many women.
Unlike any other regent, Egypt saw power and prosperity under Hatshepsuts rule. She wasn’t interested in conquering lands, her main focus was ensuring the economy was going well, while building and restoring monuments, not only for her own proof of reign, but because Hatshepsut was so religious and saw herself as one with the god Amun, she even dedicated several obelisks and offerings at his temple, which she built, Djeser-Djeseru, which is still standing today.
One expedition was important, on the 9th year of her reign, in Punt, where the population saw ivory, myrrh trees, and gold which is also carved into the walls of the temple itself, forever remembered and immortalized.
Hatshepsut was and is an idol for many, considering her gender and her reign, and the thought that she could become Pharaoh in a system so accustomed to male regents, breaking gender roles, was beyond belief.
Also, the few chapters of Thutmose III reign after her death, was so interesting to read, especially considering how helpless he was during her reign in his younger years, and how much she had done without his knowledge. That is one pharaoh that I will definitely look up!
And that one paragraph on mummifying..
eugh. Countless documentaries won’t help me get used to that. Fascinating, not gonna lie.
The book gave me a new perspective on the ruling and hierarchies, also religious insight. I thought the book was very good, the information wasn’t just dumped in and didnt leave you confused. Most of the time, Cooney does a great job doing a quick background explanation before digging further into a subject. Since this is an autobiography of a pharaoh whose traces were removed, the author does a really good job covering most of the important moments of Hatshepsuts life, especially if you have absolutely no idea about anything revolving Ancient Egypt.
“Many historians will no doubt accuse me of fantasy: inventing emotions and feelings for which I have no evidence. And they will be right.”
Another really great thing about this book is that it’s written by an Egyptologist, so it’s hard to say this book has a lot of misinformed sections or false sources, because the author does cover source citation in the back of the book, including footnotes throughout the text as well as pictures. Another thing she does is clearly state it if anything is invented or added that is simply not true in real context. I salute Cooney for the introduction and authors note as well!
All in all, I gave this book 5 stars in total. In my personal opinion, it was an amazing read, it kept me wanting more, it gave me so much hope for feminism in the future, and I highly, highly recommend to anyone who wants an entertaining read that isn’t fiction.