Nefertiti by Michelle Moran
Published in 2012 by Crown Publishing Group
About the Author
Michelle Moran is an American novelist and she took an interest in writing from an early age, purchasing Writer’s Market and submitting her stories and novellas to publishers from the time she was twelve. She matured in literature at Pomona college. Following a summer in Israel where she worked as a volunteer archaeologist, she earned an MA from the Claremont Graduate University. Her experiences at archaeological sites were what inspired her to write historical fiction. A public high school teacher for 6 years, Moran is currently a full time writer living in California.
Nefertiti and Mutnodjmet are half sisters, raised in a powerful family that has provided wives to the rulers of Egypt for centuries. At an early age, Nefertiti is already determined, ambitious and knows her way around a man. Told from Mutnodjmet’s perspective, she is sure of becoming the Pharaoh’s wife and sometimes more powerful than the Pharaoh himself. She manages to convince everyone that she can control Amunhotep’s blasphemous desire to forsake Egypt’s ancient Gods, overthrow the priests of Amun and introduce a Sun God, Amun for all to worship.
From the moment she arrives in Thebes, Nefertiti charms her people. While they have the love of the commoners, it is not enough to sustain and complete what Amunhotep wants to do. Nefertiti has to produce an heir and while she strives to do so, she doesnt realise that her husband’s thoughts are not well received by the priests and the military. The only person who understand this shift in loyalties is her sister. Mutnodjment is observant and contemplative and she has never shared her sister’s desire for power. She yearns for a quite home with a garden and her own family without court intrigue and family duty. But as Nefertiti slowly starts to realise that her sister has these desires, she claims that her sister must remain at court, not marry for love but for political gain and stay by her side, especially when her situation is so precarious.
But Mutnodjment wants to a marry a General, a high ranking military man – the same military force that Amunhotep and Nefertiti fear. Mutnodjment has to claim her independence from her sister and still keep her family’s needs in mind. This results in some harsh situations for both sisters and nearly tears them apart. They must learn to make peace and meet each other halfway.
This book is set in historical fact and makes for a very enjoyable read. The lengths that women will go to in order to gain power and one up each other is remarkable as seen between Nefertiti and Kiya, Pharaoh’s first wife. Their rivalry is played out well, Mutnodjment’s narrative is reflective and sympathetic and Amunhotep is unstable at his best. Nefertiti was a mystery and driving this story from Mutnodjment’s perspective was a stroke of genius. If she had to do it from Nefertiti’s perspective, I doubt we would have found the story very enjoyable since Nefertiti wasn’t exactly a likeable character in history. For her debut novel, Michelle could not have picked out a better historical figure from history.