When Naomi Mitchison, queen of the historical novel, undertook Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, already symbol of a great love story, something remarkable was bound to ensue. But Mitchison did not choose to follow her great predecessors Plutarch and Shakespeare, with the tale of Mark Antony's fatal romance with 'the serpent of old Nile', and the pair's ill-fated wars with Octavian. Her chief interest in producing a new Cleopatra is shown even in her tantalising title, Cleopatra's People. The novel starts with the next generation, with the children of the Queen and of Charmian, one of her 'mates'. The impact of Cleopatra's life and personality is reflected through them, and their efforts to follow in her wake. But wider than that, we see that Cleopatra's people are the people of Egypt, and that she cherished dreams of a great, peaceful trading empire to the south, in Africa and even India. Mitchison's Cleopatra is a powerful woman, immersed more in the affairs of state than in love affairs with Caesar and Antony, although her love for the latter is true. The Queen's dreams for Egypt are greater still: perhaps only a woman and a royal one could have dreamed them in face of Rome.