The Double Crown

Written by Marié Heese
Review by Alan Fisk

Following coincidentally upon the recent republication of Pauline Gedge’s Child of the Morning (see HNR, Aug. 2010, p.19), this is another novel about the female Pharaoh Hatshepsut.

Hatshepsut’s father Thutmose I trains her in the art of ruling, relying more upon her as he grows older and physically weaker. His successor, Hatshepsut’s brother and husband Thutmose II, is afflicted by chronic illness and once again Hatshepsut has to take on much of the burden of government.

The Double Crown consists of a series of scrolls, commented upon by the scribe Mahu to whom they are entrusted, that are being written by Hatshepsut to justify her taking the throne herself upon her brother/husband’s death, instead of letting it pass to his son.

Hatshepsut has been convinced since childhood that she has been chosen and nurtured by the gods, and that it is her duty to rule Egypt as that unheard-of thing, a woman Pharaoh. Her rule is successful for many years, but Hatshepsut is always aware of the threat from her resentful nephew/stepson Thutmose, whom the priests have also crowned as joint Pharaoh, but whom she keeps from power. A year comes, however, when more signs indicate to Hatshepsut that the favour of the gods may have been withdrawn from her.

This is a compelling and lyrical novel, with a narrator who sees the world within the frame of the beliefs of her own time and society. The Double Crown won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for the Best Book in Africa 2010, as it well deserved to do. (Available for purchase through – ed.)