Something that not many people know about me is I have always had an avid love of Ancient Egypt, bit it has been rekindled to almost obsessive levels lately! My main method of procrastination has been watching documentaries about the subject, which is how I discovered Joann Fletcher. Joann is a professor of Egyptology based at the University of York. he has presented a number of documentaries about Egypt, most recently Immortal Egypt – The World’s Greatest Civilisation which is the companion TV series to this book. The Story of Egypt is very comprehensive book on the subject, and covers everything in much more detail than the 4-part TV series, starting in the pre-dynastic period right the way up to the fall of the Ptolemaic empire with the death of Cleopatra.
I had high hopes for this, I love all the documentaries I’ve seen with Joann at the helm and in a way it met them but in many others it didn’t. It is very, very accessible for the non-expert and the generally curious reader who wishes to expand their knowledge. It really is incredible how such a broad period of history (pre-5000BC to 30BC) was covered in such a small number of pages. The content of this book is amazing, it follows Egypt chronologically, and while there were a couple of parts which seemed out of place, and would have been better in another section, on the whole it was well organised and read well. Each chapter is dedicated to a dynasty (approximately), which means that it’s all very bitesized and easy to see how each dynasty impacted on the next.
However, what I didn’t like was the writing. I found it repetitive, and in turn it became quite dull and hard to engage in. There were a lot of niggly things which irritated me in use of language, and while I understand it was both factual AND easy to digest there comes a point where simple language becomes repetitive and disengaging and I really feel that was the downfall of this entire book for me, unfortunately. A lot of sentences started the same way, and the phrase ‘so-called’ was thrown around a lot (while it was perfectly legitimate to be used, it was a little grating after a while!) Also, there is a lot of issues surrounding her opinion of Nefertiti – namely that a lot of her evidence is unsubstantiated and that her claims were published without going through the correct channels. Her unsubstantiated claims were reiterated in this book but I found them very interesting to actually read, I don’t know the true facts surrounding Nefertiti – I am afterall no expert – all I know is that her claims have received a lot of controversy!
I think though that this book is a great introduction to Egyptian history to someone who just wants to learn more. It’s accessible, it’s relatively easy to read, I would just recommend not reading it in large chunks or it does get repetitive and blur together a little! On the whole I enjoyed this, and I will read more by Fletcher. So it has to be 3*.