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Review by John Anthony West  "The only true portrait of ancient Egypt in novel form."

An extraordinary biographical novel of Egypt's great (and much maligned and misunderstood) Queen Hatshepsut. It provides a unique, in-depth and thoroughly believable portrait of the great female Pharaoh: a woman who, while wielding absolute political power, was at the same time emotionally and philosophically developed and therefore capable of conceiving the enlightened architectural and artistic masterpieces that distinguished her long reign ... all the while glorying in and never losing sight of her own intense femininity.

TRUTH IS THE SOUL OF THE SUN (a literal translation of the Queen's throne name, Maat-ka-Re) is also, to the best of my knowledge, the only novel that captures within a single volume what must have been the reality of daily life in ancient Egypt - from royalty to peasantry.

It is all there and in three dimensions .. the divinity-driven, Nile-blessed land in all its magical, hierarchical complexity, its profound sacred science, pervasive religious reverence, its exotic unparalleled material richness, its relentless heat, its obsession with artistic perfection and its enviable ability to unabashedly celebrate the erotic ... without for a moment losing sight of the underlying 'esoteric' that fuels it.

TRUTH IS THE SOUL OF THE SUN is an exhilarating literary immersion course that captures ancient Egypt in its entirety, the only novel I know of that even gets close.


Review for The Historical Novel Society by Steve Donoghue

Truth is the Soul of the Sun, Maria Isabel Pita's historical novel about Hatshepsut, is over 500 pages long and has dozens of footnotes. Pita follows her subject from childhood to twenty years of ruling as Pharaoh Hatshepsut-Maatkare and includes a cast of hundreds along the way. In less adept hands, such a profusion of detail would almost certainly prove deadly (several highly publicized historical fiction tomes of the last few years come to mind), but Pita has a consummate storyteller's skill for pacing--and as a result, this long novel is an absorbing reading experience.

Hatshepsut of course is one of the `big three' female protagonists in Egyptian history--but she wielded far more real power than either Nefertiti or Cleopatra, and she ruled longer than both of them combined. In Pita's tale, she relies on two men: high priest and governor Hapuseneb, whom she warily respects, and Senmut, a commoner she raises to minister and loves. Senmut is a fascinating creation, an honest man caught between love and devotion...
it's a tribute to Pita's skills that Hatshepsut herself ends up towering over all other characters in this novel. The decision to follow her through every trial over years bears fruit: readers will close the book feeling they've known this remarkable woman. Highly recommended.

Review by Ben Morales-Correa For Egypt Then And Now

Historical objectivity and sensuality of expression interweave across the entire span of “Truth is the Soul of the Sun“, Maria Isabel Pita’s new biographical novel of Hatshepsut, arguably the most powerful woman of all time. We can tell that Pita worked tirelessly and with the same level of passion with which she communicates human emotion in her erotic literature to construe how a woman was able to break the long line of male kings and wear the double crown of the Two Lands as Maatkare, hence the title.

Granted, “Truth is the Soul of the Sun” is a chronological narrative of love and power with little suspense, but this is more than compensated by the parallel metaphysical world that Pita evokes with her magnificent and prolific use of imagery. The queen who would be king might be the main official character, but it is Maat, the spirit of beauty and order, a transcendent creative power breathing life, which is the true catalyst for the author’s inspiration. Thus, the novel demands a slower pace of reading, heightening our senses as we turn every page and imbue ourselves in the realm of beauty and spirituality of 18th dynasty Egypt.

Paradoxically, Maatkare Hatshepsut’s unique achievement of becoming a female Horus did not lead to any further break of tradition. In fact, once pharaoh, Hatshepsut limited herself to preserve Maat, exercise sekhem and perform heka and did not do anything different from previous rulers. Her greatness is inextricably attached to the support of two loyal and powerful male characters, whose relationship with the female king allows us to experience her womanhood.

In conclusion, “Truth is the Soul of the Sun” is a fascinating, well-researched and richly narrated biography in the historical fiction genre recommended for anyone interested in strong women in history.


Amazon.com Reviews
A Bold and Exhaustive Novel/Biography

Maria Isabel Pita has accomplished a true feat in her book TRUTH IS THE SOUL OF THE SUN (the name of the book is a translation of Hatshepsut-Maatkare's name) - a book of obviously demanding research coupled with a degree of fictionalized spaces where more is not known, 'more' in this case being the sensual side of the queen who history has proven to be the most powerful female ever known. Pita takes 550 pages to tell her story: reading this book takes a big commitment of time. Not that Pita does not write well (she in fact writes with a fine sense of flow of thoughts along with her careful documentation of facts), but the story is about Egypt and requires so many names of persons and gods and ideas that keeping the story straight is, at times, problematic.

But for those who love Egyptian history this biographical novel is a treasure trove. Not only does Pita give us the strangely startling emergence of Hatshepsut to the place of royalty and eventually the role of the Female Falcon who ruled Egypt as one as closely tied to divinity as any of her predecessors or subsequent rulers, but she also is able to fashion a rather incredible picture of a woman who was adored on many levels - including the complete allegiance of the men of Egypt. There are sufficient forays into her sensual side to satisfy the reader who prefers 'doctored historical fiction', but the achievement here is a work that pulls together the fragments of knowledge about a phenomenal queen into one significant survey. The book many be a bit too long and demanding for the casual reader, but for those who relish a good story about an important historical figure from ancient
Egypt, this is a good read.
Review by Grady Harp, Amazon Top 10 Reviewer

A Powerful and Exceptionally Engaging Work

This is a truly exceptional book, the kind that can put you on a new path in life or at least make you think carefully about the one that you're on. It spans Hatshepsut's entire life and presents such a plausible and extremely well researched narrative that it leaves little to question in terms of either history or perspective. Even in areas of enduring speculation and mystery - such as the ultimate fate of Senmut and his tomb and mummy or the enigmatic tooth recently discovered in a box with Maatkare's seal on it - the author presents solutions almost unthinkable with the imposition of simplistic western myths of ancient Egypt but obvious, and perfectly reasonable, in the time and context in which they happened. For those who follow Egyptian archaeology, there are numerous mysteries potentially solved in this book, as well as a true contextual basis for enhancing our overall understanding of ancient Egypt. This is a tour de force of Egyptian symbology and a wide window into the minds and lives of ancient Egyptians as they likely really were. One does not doubt they are there in the time and the place. In my own opinion, I really think that Maria Pita in "Truth is the Soul of the Sun" even surpasses the great Joan Grant in "Eyes of Horus" in this respect.

While Hatshepsut learns everything that a wise ruler must know we learn along with her, and the style of the prose evolves subtly as she (and the reader) become more sophisticated in life and the Egyptian perception of it. It took me a while to realize that as Hatshepsut and her life become more and more sophisticated and interesting so does the book. In this age of writing that gets a reader interested with the hook and then fades as the chapters start to drag on, this book is the opposite. It is one of the few books of this length I have read that actually becomes increasingly more compelling as it progresses and culminates in a truly satisfying crescendo.

I actually read the first half of this book in print and then moved to the audio book Truth is the Soul of the Sun - A Biographical Novel of Hatshepsut-Maatkare. The audio book is read directly by the author who is blessed with a lovely reading voice, good enunciation, and an understated theatrical ability that makes the book even more alive in audio. It is 19 CDs, unabridged. My only complaint about the audio set is that you don't get the pages of footnotes and the extensive and informative bibliography. Of course, another guilty pleasure in the print version is the 'Afterward' and the author's delicious debunking of the sensationalist fiction regarding Hatshepsut's mummy, advertised as truth for ratings and celebrity by a charlatan symbol of the Egypt of just a few years ago - now withered in the light of Maat and the Arab Spring.


A Work of Unusual Quality

This is an intriguing and remarkable book. The opening chapters follow the growing awareness of the child Hatshepsut, from earliest memories through childhood education through her gradual assumption of exceptional political power. The story also serves as a kind of exploration of fundamental concepts of Egyptian religious and civilizational philosophy. Some of that is made explicit and some implied, so there is an interesting experience for the reader in interpreting the Egyptian world view from the words and clues offered especially in the earlier parts of the book. You see the world of Egypt as Hatshepsut sees it, and that world assembles for you as Hatshepsut's mind puts it together in her own perspective. Put another way, you are learning about the Egyptian world as Hatshepsut does. The novel is about the inner life of its subject, and although it is written in the third person it is Hatshepsut's mind that is the real narrator.

On one level, this is a spiritual, intellectual and political adventure story, about how Hatshepsut unexpectedly became possibly the most powerful head-of-state of her time. On another level, the novel is a work of anthropological fiction, in which the invented details of the story are used to describe the culture of ancient Egypt. That culture is rich (in all senses of the term), complex and subtle, and the author handles its exposition skillfully. This is not a "snapshot" of ancient Egypt, but rather a richly-formed evocation of what is for all of us an alternate universe, complete with details of landscape and material culture, a complex economy and a distinct way of life, in a lost world and a distant civilization.

I found myself taking a leisurely time reading this novel, because I enjoyed lingering over and rereading so much of it. Partly that was because the Egyptian world view as elaborated in this book is so alien to our own that I wanted to immerse myself in it, just for the joy of discovery, as when learning a new language. Beyond that, the writing is frequently and strikingly poetic. The book's very title, which the author explains in her introductory notes, is itself an example of that. The narrative is filled with imaginative moments that often made me stop in my tracks and be fascinated by the words themselves. Some examples, among many, include: "The pyramid's gleaming point sent long, luminous arms directly into her squinting eyes and she felt it silently telling her something wonderful."....or: "She was not at all nervous about leaving home because everyone who lived in her heart was going with her."....or: "The mountain became a closed door locked by magic."

It must have taken a great amount of work and, really, faith to produce Truth is the Soul of the Sun. Beyond the wide reading on Egyptian antiquities that this surely involved, there was also the crafting of all that information into a story that demanded narrative and drama, and the challenge of imagining this world in multiple dimensions and describing it in terms of human experience and events. That the author seems to accomplish this almost casually is itself a compliment to her art and ability.

One reviewer, who was otherwise appreciative, commented that the novel was "slow moving" and did not possess enough sturm und drang. My counter-argument is that the novel is relatively realistic in that most people most of the time live lives of significance without formulaic drama, and that a good story can still be thoughtful and focused on the less violent challenges that life throws at us all every day. One of the aspects of this book that I enjoyed was its constant exploration of significance in the normal and its sense of the magic of ordinary life, even in life lived by a monarch.

There are books one reads quickly, mostly to be mildly amused and to get to the end to find out "what happened." This is not one of them. This one is worth a much more reflective approach, and is more like a journey with an unknown end than a fast read. I enjoyed reading this book like I enjoy travelling, stopping at suddenly-discovered points to look at and linger over something strange and marvelous without regard to schedule. I recommend this book for other "travellers" who wish from the books they read not so much to be amused as to be amazed and delighted by a trip to another world. All I can judge a book on is how successfully it intrigues me and gets me out of my own head and into another realm for a short while. That's why I'm rating this particular book with five stars. The author has a talent for creating alternate worlds for a reader to explore, and that aspect of Truth is the Soul of the Sun, among others, puts it way ahead of most works of fiction.


Seamless Weave of Facts and Fiction

In Truth is the Soul of the Sun, Maria Pita has accomplished something many authors try -- and fail -- to do. That is, she integrates an amazing amount of factual Egytology into a delightful fictional representation of real historical figures without disrupting the story itself. I love historical fiction -- that is to say, I like my history told in an entertaining and engaging way -- and this book accomplishes that in spades. It's one thing to read an account of the life of a woman who was, arguably, the most powerful queen in history. It's quite another to imagine her as a petulant child and a sometimes conflicted teenager, and to have some insight into the people, places and traditions that surrounded her and made her into the queen she became. This lengthy read (>500 pages) will give you something to look forward to over the course of many long winter evenings.

One Word Says it All
Magnificent! Enchanting from cover to cover. My only regret is that I cannot give this marvelous work a hundred stars rather than a mere five.  Review by Peggy Ullman Bell

Excellent Book
Huge biographical novel of Hatshepsut; extremely interesting well researched and very detailed; recommend to anyone who enjoys Egypt and their Pharaohs.


GREAT Book for History Buffs - Good Read For Anyone

Truth is the Soul of the Sun is one of the rare works of historical fiction in which the "fiction" does not overpower the "history."

This book brings Hatshepsut's world to life; the culture, religion and architecture of ancient Egypt surround the reader, who is given an intimate glimpse into the daily lives of the royal court. Even though much is yet to be learned about Hatshepsut's life, Maria Isabel Pita uses her knowledge of Egyptian history to weave the facts together with just enough fancy to transform an ancient sculpture into a living, breathing woman.

Before I purchased this book, I was a little intimidated that several reviews warned about difficulty keeping track of all the names/characters. The book begins with a guide listing the name and relation and/or official title of each character. I SKIPPED THE GUIDE COMPLETELY and simply began reading the book- and I had NO trouble keeping track of anyone. Once I had FINISHED the book, I went back and looked at the name guide. If I had read the name guide FIRST, I would have been under the impression that the book would make no sense unless I first memorized all of that information, which is not the case at all.


Very Good Read
I have always loved ancient Egyptian lore and especially works involving Hatshepsut. Lovely book... very well written enough fact blended with fiction. Loved it.

              
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