Jerusalem: The Biography Paperback – 1 Mar 2012
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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 of the city (THE DAILY TELEGRAPH 20120303)
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 )
It is a gripping read, told with verve and fluency, and explains why Jerusalem, like a living person, has touched the heart of so many cultures, East and West, for so long (Michael Binyon THE TIMES 20120512)
...never a dull moment (David Bradbury DAILY MAIL 20120323)
Full of faith, power, slaughter and fanaticism; this is a unique chronicle, balanced and critical and wonderfully entertaining. (Chris Burgess The Examiner (Ireland) 20120303)
This is a city that has survived Hell, and Montefiore takes you to the heart of it. (James Cleary The Northern Echo 20120305)
Magnificent. (Stephen Lewis The York Press 20120310)
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.