(Cover picture courtesy of Passages to the Past.)
Thirty-five centuries ago the sun had a daughter: Hatshepsut. Youngest daughter of the Pharaoh, she was a lithe and magical child. But when her older sister died, it became her duty to purify the dynasty’s bloodline. She was to wed Thothmes, her father’s illegitimate son, who was heir to the throne. But fearing his son’s incompetence, Hatshepsut’s father came to her with startling news. She was to be Pharaoh, ruler of the greatest empire the world had ever known–provided, of course, that the unprecedented ascension by a woman did not inspire the priests to treason or instill in her half-brother and future consort sufficient hatred to have her put to death.
This is the premise for Child of the Morning, based closely on the historical facts. Hatshepsut assumed the throne at the age of fifteen and ruled brilliantly for more than two decades. Her achievements were immortalized on the walls of her magnificent temple at Deir el-Bahri, built by her architect and lover, Senmut.
Sensuous and evocative, Child of the Morning is the story of one of history’s most remarkable women.
(This summary is from Amazon because my edition does not have a blurb at the back.)
When I first read Child of the Morning, I was enchanted by it. Hatshepsut the tragic, pious she-pharaoh who wanted nothing more than to please Amun spoke to me. Pauline Gedge brought her to life for me and made ancient Egypt so much more accessible. Yet something about her portrayal of Hatshepsut didn’t feel right to me at all. Upon further study of her life, Pauline Gedge’s Hatshepsut does not sit well with me.
Pharaoh Hatshepsut reigned for 20-22 years after the death of her brother-husband Thutmose II. With the help of some great advisors (most notably the enigmatic Senmut), she ruled Egypt justly and kept peace for the better part of two decades, which was no easy feat. Personally, I don’t think Pauline Gedge’s dreamer could have achieved half of what the real Hatshepsut did. But maybe this is just my personal preference mixed with my prejudiced views of history. I do prefer an Iron Lady to an Aida, I must admit.
Other than my disapproval of Hatshepsut’s portrayal, Child of the Morning is excellent light historical fiction. The plot does not speed along, but it is nice and steady. Pauline Gedge has a talent for spellbinding writing and she inserts many authentic details from Egyptian life into her novel.
So what do you think of Hatshepsut? Was she an Iron Lady or a dreamer, as Pauline Gedge portrays her?
I give this book 4/5 stars.