Jerusalem: The Biography Hardcover – 27 Jan 2011
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A fittingly vast and dazzling portrait of Jerusalem, utterly compelling from start to finish. (Christopher Hart THE SUNDAY TIMES)
Astoundingly ambitious and triumphantly epic history...His achievement, in fashioning a fluent narrative out of such daunting material can hardly be praised enough. There are few themes as demanding as the history of Jerusalem...tautly gripping...a book with its gaze fixed on the stars [but] also with its feet firmly in the gutter... A heavenly city Jerusalem may be; but it is also a relentlessly terrestrial one. The achievement of this marvellous book is to fuse them into one biography. (Tom Holland THE DAILY TELEGRAPH)
as one turns the pages of Simon Sebag Montefiore's absorbing book...[one] becomes gripped by the rich, pungent detail of the lives of Jerusalem's rulers and the ruled. Montefiore has a great novelist's eye for detail, a great journalist's nose for human frailty, and a great historian's touch... judicious, nuanced, balanced and sensitive... when a history is written this way one can never have too much. (Michael Gove THE TIMES)
Outstanding, superbly objective, elegantly written and highly entertaining (Saul David MAIL ON SUNDAY)
Simon Sebag Montefiore's history of Jerusalem is a labour of love and scholarship... a considerable achievement... he has a wonderful ear for the absurdities and adventurers of the past... totally gripping... vivid compelling, engaged, engrossing, knowledgeable (Barnaby Rogerson THE INDEPENDENT)
Compelling and thought-provoking...Working on an immense chronological and thematic canvas Sebag Montefiore does his subject more than justice. He narrates the terrible history of Jerusalem vividly and graphically... fascinating but ghastly. (Munro Price THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)
Montefiore's book, packed with fascinating and often grisly detail, is a gripping account of war, betrayal, rape, massacre, sadistic torture, fanaticism, feuds, persecution, corruption, hypocrisy and spirituality...Montefiore's narrative is remarkably objective...A reliable and compelling account (Antony Beevor THE GUARDIAN)
masterly, vastly entertaining and timely... Sebag Montefiore has an unerring eye for the vivid detail to illustrate his point and the telling quote to place it in context... a compelling narrative and an important book. (Victor Sebestyen EVENING STANDARD)
Jerusalem is an extraordinary achievement, written with imagination and energy that threatens to mesmerize and exhaust the reader at the same time...the resulting impression is of a unique borderline personality, with an irrepressible capacity for love and hatred; an aptitude for poetry, prophecy and the sacred; with no lack of the grotesquely profane...Read this book. (FINANCIAL TIMES John Cornwell)
To write a "biography" of Jerusalem is a formidable undertaking. Simon Sebag Montefiore has risen to the challenge. His book can be commended to anyone who is planning a trip to Jerusalem, or who wants background on the Palestinian question - or who just enjoys a good read. (PROSPECT)
The epic story of Jerusalem told through the lives of the men and women who created, ruled and inhabited it.See all Product description
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For example, early in Jerusalem, readers are simply told that Genesis 1 and 2 are two conflicting creation accounts as if this would be a devastating revelation to anyone who believes in the truth of the Bible. Virtually no Biblical account is viewed as reliable unless there is a tangential reference found in either archaeology or the records of a conquering army. Biblical accounts are repeatedly viewed as suspect, but those of the oppressors are somehow reliable. Events in Jesus' life are cherry-picked, with those fitting a liberal consensus viewed as historical, and everything else a later addition.
"Fair enough," I thought, "He just doesn't really know the Bible. A bit of an oversight in a history of Jerusalem, but not unexpected in a historian and following the status quo of today's secular scholarship." But the errors just kept coming! When discussing the Reformation, we're treated to the revelation that Martin Luther, "insisted that God only existed in the Bible". We're also told that during the early Reformation there are many Protestant sects including: "the Reform Church, Presbyterians, Calvinists", which is such a bizarre, anachronistic, reading of Protestantism that it leaves one's head spinning like a dervish.
I really enjoyed the reading the book. I loved the sweeping panorama of the history of the city and the people who lived there, but it was let down by stunning levels of Biblical ignorance. This is not a work that deserves to sit by Montefiore's spectacular biographies of Joseph Stalin.
The story as a whole is well told, but I found it immensely depressing. The whole history of Jerusalem seems to be one of power struggles, war and massacres, mostly committed by Christians, Muslims and Jews against each other and within their own faith communities. I cannot understand why Montefiore and many others love the city so much, but then, I have never been there and, though I am a Christian, have no particular desire to go there. I think the world would be a better place if we dropped the whole concept of a 'Holy City' or a 'Holy Land'.
Unusually for a history book, it's a bit short on dates at times; some of the chapters cover quite long time periods and I got a bit lost at times.Otherwise, a fascinating book, well written and worth buying for the beautifully written & evocative preface and epilogue alone. I'm off to buy a proper book and read it again - I think that will get 5 stars!
However, this is a book to read a few pages a day and not one to sit down and plough through chapter after chapter.