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Jerusalem: The Biography
Jerusalem: The Biography
by Simon Sebag Montefiore
Edition: Hardcover

17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not what people say it is, 11 July 2011
From the Economist to the FT, Simon Sebag Montefiore's Jerusalem has had exceptional reviews. Having read it over the course of the last week, I have one question, why? Sure, it covers a great deal. In fact it's an ideal one-stop-shop for a knowledge of Jerusalem, from its modest beginnings under King David up to the 1967 war. But beyond its large scope this book has little to be said for it. The writing is oppressively populist. The prologue in particular keeps reaching for the grandiloquent when the descriptive would do; we are told no less than three times in the first 30 pages that Jerusalem is a city which exists concurrently in temporal and geographical space. And likewise that we are all in some sense citizens of the city.

Granted; when I bought it I knew this was History designed to sell. But even so the author's rank headline of an 'argument', 'the history of Jerusalem is the history of the world' comes to grate, both as a result of its patent inaccuracy and its constant repetition.

I finished reading this wondering whether the craze for popular history has gone to far. Of course, Historians should engage with the wider public. Just not like this. ( and it's worth remembering the author is not an academic - there's a reason for that).

The Romantic Revolution (UNIVERSAL HISTORY)
The Romantic Revolution (UNIVERSAL HISTORY)
by Prof. Tim Blanning
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brodsky, 29 Dec 2010
If God existed and he, she or it wrote history, it would look like this. Amongst Blanning's divine characteristics this reviewer noted; the lyrical buoyancy of his prose, total comprehension of his subject matter and his ability to covey complex subjects clearly. Like his other work, this book is as at home on an undergraduate reading list as it is on the casual readers book shelf. Blanning is brilliant. Buy it.

Good Manners and Bad Behaviour: The Unofficial Rules of Diplomacy
Good Manners and Bad Behaviour: The Unofficial Rules of Diplomacy
by Candida Slater
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Diplomatic put-down, 3 Aug 2010
This is a poor book. Its essentially a collection of anecdotes which can be placed along a spectrum ranging from the baffling inane to the brain pole-axingly boring. There's no real attempt to recount what life is actually like in an embassy; emotions and values are totally ignored at the expense of bizarre comments about what it is like to have plumbing problems in Nigeria. If the intricacies of third-world infastructure are a source of fascination, this is for you.

Tacked on to the authors 'memoirs' is a sort of 'how to' guide to diplomacy. In keeping with the level of gravitas displayed by the rest of the book, this section deals with perennial problems such as;summer gloves - should they be worn? and the intricacies of arranging a seating plan for dinner.

Christopher Meyer's DC COnfidential is a far more readable and substantial offering on pretty much the same subject.

Children of the Revolution: The French, 1799-1914 (Allen Lane History)
Children of the Revolution: The French, 1799-1914 (Allen Lane History)
by Robert Gildea
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Solid and necessary but not exceptional history, 4 July 2010
For too long Nineteenth Century france has been a historical blind spot for me. I picked this up hoping for a lively tour through the period and a congenial prose style. On the first count the book more or less succeeds. The narrative weaves in and out of political, cultural and economic events. The chapter on French regionalism was particularly good. Unfortunatley the narrative saggs. The author is no Blanning or Hobesbawm. To often the prose is weighed down by unnescesarry details and one gets the sense that writting doesn't flow for the author as it does for more accomplished historians. This is well researched and well argued history, but it lacks lyrical buoyancy

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