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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If only I'd been taught history like this as a school boy
I thought the television version of the Story of the Jews was remarkable but I now realise it simply scratched the surface of the subject.
Simon Schama makes his fun and easy to read. His powerful narrative drive, the frequent comical asides and the extraordinary scholarship of his work make the book unputdownable. As a Jew I thought I knew the story of my people but...
Published 6 months ago by Prof M. Baum

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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good on Images but Words Sometimes Fail
"The Story of the Jews" (of which only volume 1 has so far appeared; volume 2 will come out in September) was conceived simultaneously as a TV series and a book, and the book is actually based upon the TV series.

This combination of the visual image and the printed word works excellently in relation to the central theme that the true and eternal homeland of the...
Published 5 months ago by Deborah H. Maccoby


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A solid read, 24 Jan 2014
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Professor M. A. Green (Leeds UK) - See all my reviews
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Excellent academic piece,, Rather heavy going. Best to read it in conjunction with his DVDs of the TV series. good value
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some powerful story, 24 Jan 2014
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The standard narrative, known throughout the Western World at least, is based on the New Testament. Schama tells of an energetic Diaspora, from North Africa to Baghdad, with flourishing communities, whose cultures contribute much more to the modern Jews, than the Temple practice of the Jews known to the Romans.
Quite different to the current received wisdom and essential for understanding Jews and Judaism today.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just the TV series again, 23 Jan 2014
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Mr. Ronald Gerard (Totteridge, London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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I was expecting the TV series but with a bit more detail. However, it's a scholarly history book - but interesting.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tale of Woe, 23 Jan 2014
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The brilliant, erudite and articulate Simon Schama produces a muddled, idiosyncratic history of his people (OK, our people). Using his usual trick of engaging you through people you may or may not have heard of to make general points, this first volume only pays dividends in the later chapters on the late middle ages and the inquisition. Until then, it's a mess.

Schama does not credit biblical history much, unless it is Christian or Muslim history. He thinks the Old Testament is pretty much invention, and the opening chapters are so disappointing, they nearly put me off reading it. Things pick up with Josephus, but Schama spends more time covering 10th Century Jewish poetry than he does on the Second Revolt. He totally blows the connection between the rise of Christianity and the destruction of the Second Revolt, or the rise of Pauline Christianity's anti-Jewishness in the light of the First Jewish Revolt.

The later chapters redeem the book to a non-Turkey level. The sections on Maimonides and the end of the Spanish Jews are just brilliant, readable and special. His English tale of woe is also terrific.

This followed the television show - the first chapter was a mess, but it improved greatly in later chapters. When he shines, he shines brightly. When he feels it, he can really communicate.

Ancient history is clearly not that compelling for Schama, and he often assumes his readers know a lot, when they know much less than him. He bends over backwards to be nice to Christians and Muslims, despite their terrible ideas and behaviours.

Most importantly, he never really addresses the core question of Jewish persecution - the Job question - why me? Why the Jews? The Greeks, the Romans, the Christians, the Muslims. I mean, Randy Newman wipes the floor with him -listen to the words on God's Song

Not for beginners, that's for sure.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative and Good reading.Quite inspiring., 8 Jan 2014
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Yes I am reading it slowly,There is great story too tell a story like no other about an epic of endurance against oppression
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Read, 4 Jan 2014
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Excellent book, well written, researched and gives food for thought. Simon Sharma as always writes with care and attention to detail
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Partial History of the Jews, 16 Oct 2013
By 
Robert Feather (London) - See all my reviews
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My first thoughts on hearing about Simon Sharma's proposed project were: Oh no, why do we need yet another gargantuan view of Jewish history? Nevertheless within the confines of five 1-hour television programmes and a 473 page book it is a brave attempt. My real criticisms are that, perhaps because of these limitations of time and space, Sharma rarely follows through on the extremely interesting topics he embraces. This made the series compulsive but very frustrating.

For, instance, he starts off by viewing Sigmund Freud's work on Moses, but completely fails to explain that the central theme and conclusion of Freud's work, which he laboured on from the 1930 to the 1950s was his conviction that Moses was associated with an 18th Dynasty Pharaoh and that the Hebrew story was intimately connected to this period of Egyptian history. Pharaoh Akhenaton is completely absent from the TV documentaries and hardly gets a mention in Sharma's book, The Story of the Jews, and even there he is mislabelled as `the leader of an exclusive cult of a single sun-god...' It is quite wrong to dismiss this period as one of sun worship. From what we know of Akhenaton's true beliefs he thought of an abstract invisible all- powerful God he knew as the Aton; which when you consider the letters T and D in Egyptian pronunciation are interchangeable, gives God's name as Adon - the same as the Hebrew rendering. Freud recognised this critically important fact.

When it comes to the Exodus, we find Moses looking out over the wonderful vista of Canaan, apparently some 3,500 years ago. Some of the photography and scenery and sites in the documentary are almost worth viewing in their own right. However, in the light of modern scholarship we know that the Exodus took place in the 12th century BCE, much later than Sharma posits. He also thinks:"No evidence outside the Hebrew Bible exists to make the exodus and the law giving dependably historical..." As `Where Moses Stood' reveals this assumption is quite wrong. There is hard inscriptional evidence for the Exodus and the location of the law giving.

Sharma next moves on to look at the aberrational community he refers to as a military Jewish colony in southern most Egypt, that he says came there in the 7th century BCE. Whilst some other scholars use the same terms and dating, Professor Bezalel Porten, who is a pioneering expert on Elephantine settlement, refrains from calling the people on the island Jews and now maintains they were essentially Aramaen and we "just don't know where they came from or when they arrived." Sharma skims through this extraordinary story but fails to ask the questions, why did they go there, why did they have such different versions of belief from those in Judaea. He is also quite wrong when he says: "The only literature found in the archive (of aramaic letters form Elephantine, some of which are now in the Brooklyn Museum, New York) was the `Book of Wisdom', the words of Ahiqar." There was another entitled the words of `Bisutun', found in 1906, which is also a story of wisdom instructions. There is nothing in the Aramaic Letters from Elephantine about military activity and no evidence of soldiers or mercenaries has been found at the site of the Aramaic Settlement.

The acid test as to the origins of this Settlement is that they followed an Egyptian law system, and worshipped Jahu and at least two other gods. It is self-evident that they did not know the Ten Commandments (or the Torah) which forbids worship of more than one God, because they had never left Egypt.

Apart form the inaccuracies in this early chronicle of Israel those on more modern times are far from complete. One hopes the second book in the series will make amends in these deficiencies.

This is only a partial review as to do justice to the entire work would take a book in itself.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eminently readable, 11 Nov 2013
By 
Jeremy Montagu (Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
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Brilliantly and somewhat chaotically written, rambling through each period with strong emphasis on people and their lives and fates to typify the historical events. It is eminently readable and the historical evidence provided at all points attests to its accuracy. I look forward to volume two, predicted for next year.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The book arrived promptly., 15 Jun 2014
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Still reading the book. It's extraordinarily researched and detailed and as a read it's not for the feint hearted. As this is part 1 of 2 readers will read the more familiar events likely contained in part 2 with a real depth of understanding that may provide historical context from the ancient times covered in part 1.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Story of the Jews is a well researched and exceptionally presented piece of literature, 8 Jun 2014
By 
Christopher J. Cowen (glenville, PA) - See all my reviews
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The Story of the Jews by Simon Schama is a well researched and exceptionally presented piece of literature. The book covers a huge space of time and does a great job at showing you the "Story of the Jews". This book shows you beautifully how we as humans can endure any hardship and not only survive but thrive within the constaints we are placed within. This book is pretty comprehensive at 512 pages long. I am glad I read this book and would definitely recommend it to others.

Thank you for reading my review.
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Story of the Jews: Finding the Words (1000 BCE - 1492)
Story of the Jews: Finding the Words (1000 BCE - 1492) by Simon Schama (Paperback - 12 Sep 2013)
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