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  • Writer's pictureEllen Alpsten

Beauty and the Beast...

Which book made you fall in love with your favourite genre? Most of us remember the spark that starts a major passion, a brief, but life-changing instant. I have read crime and contemporary women's novels as much as world literature and 'chick lit'. But nothing beats the memory of finding 'Child of the Morning' on the shelves of my local library and reading it, aged 12 or 13, falling hard for historical fiction. Its story shows the terror of oblivion.

The novel's author Pauline Gedge draws you right into the splendour and sophistication of Egypt's New Kingdom, the 18th Dynasty. Hatshepsut, the daughter of Thutmosis I., seizes the throne at her father's death and upends all traditions with shocking courage and speed. Hitherto, only male descendants of her house could govern. While her rule brings the country lasting peace and prosperity, and her architectural legacy is unique - think the temple of Deir-El-Bahari and her obelisks, which dripped in Electrum, a blend of gold and silver, reflecting the sun - not everybody was enamoured with her unconventional temerity.

Hatshepsut had two daughters, but neither shared her drive and vision. Her stepson Thutmosis, however, was not only a bright and inquisitive young man, he was also furious at being barred from the throne he deemed to be his. He served and survived twenty years in the army, where his hatred of Hatshepsut grew immeasurably.

At her death, his first task as Pharaoh of Egypt was to erase all traces of Hatshepsut's life and reign: Sphinxes bearing her traits had their faces smashed and her name was erased from tens of thousands cartouches at buildings, pillars and temples all over the country.

Oblivion was her sentence, keeping stone-masons busy for months if not years on end.

Oblivion, the ultimate punishment in a realm whose founding myth is geared towards eternity.

But Hatshepsut was lucky. She is remembered after all, and the beauty of her immense achievement recognised. She evaded the fangs and claws of the beast Oblivion.

You do not have to be Pharaoh of Egypt to record your life's milestones. We all have amazing stories to tell of obstacles we overcame, of moments of pride and shame, triumph and tragedy, love and loss. Moments, which are so unique and touching, that they ought to be remembered, for us, our loved ones and perhaps to inspire others whom we'll never meet. Recording the past to preserve it for the future is the best present - let the beauty beat the beast!

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