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VINE VOICEon 12 January 2017
I came to this book after reading and enjoying Simon Sebag Montefiore's recent wonderful history of The Romanovs. If anything,I thought that Jerusalem was even better. This epic masterpiece tells the story of this remarkable city that is sacred to three faiths, from its foundation by King David right up to the present day. The wealth of detail in it's pages is amazing and the narrative is compelling and vivid. The author has a great talent for bringing history to life and making it interesting and the book is full of fascinating detail and commentary on the private lives of historical figures, which brings additional colour to its pages. The author's analysis of war and politics throughout the great sweep of the Jerusalem story is excellent and insightful . Reading the book helped to put modern day Middle Eastern politics into perspective and I marvelled at the erudition of Montefiore and his great story telling ability; a man who is not only a fantastic non fiction writer,but who is also a superb novelist and a captivating TV presenter.
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on 8 May 2017
A very interesting book that I made the mistake of buying in Kindle. The Kindle version wouldn't load the images, maps or family trees easily (or at all, at times), so I still haven't been able to access these on the Kindle. It was only when I found a print version I realised that the extensive and very helpful foot notes were printed below the relevant pages- rather than waiting for Kindle to load the notes and then recover from the following (all too frequent) crash. I was using Kindle in Windows 10, other devices/app may be better.

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!
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on 3 February 2016
While the term biography, as opposed to history, may at first appear something of a misnomer, it is entirely fitting when the multifaceted character of Jerusalem is unveiled throughout this enlightening and immensely readable volume.
Simon Sebag Montefiore has provided a complete and thoroughly readable account of the city that for many is the center of the world. Beginning with the ancient Biblical account of Jerusalem, and moving from destruction at the hands of the Babylonians, destruction by the Romans, Islamic custodianship, the Crusades and the Crusader Kingdoms, Ottoman custody, British Mandate and finally the present, unresolved status of Jerusalem, the cities immense history is brought to life.
Jerusalem is epitomized by the former Israeli Prime Minister and later President, Shimon Peres, "Jerusalem is like a flame, you cannot divide a flame."
Indeed Jerusalem is a flame that burns bright for people the world over, a source of inspiration, controversy and strife. Controversial, divisive, but ultimately spellbinding.
Simon Sebag Montefiore's biography is an epic history. Whilst informative and educational, it is also entertaining and inspiring. It is a rare gem among history books, in the sense that it is a book that you don't just read, rather you absorb it, and in some ways, live it.
A historical study masterfully done, and suitable for all, regardless of cultural background.
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on 25 February 2015
This is - as you would expect from this writer - a very well-written popular history of the city. Giving the almost mythical proportions the city has in the imagination of many, from early pilgrims to crusaders and to many devout Christians and Jews, it is an eye opener to read how it has been an otherwise rather sleepy, dusty and unimportant provincial town for most of its existence. And not many will know that is has a large influx of American tourists of the late 19th and early 20th century (mostly Bible Belt-amateur archeologists) to thank for its renaissance, specifically in the American awareness. The book also makes it clear why through this specific period in its history the emotional bond has been created that USA citizens feel with Israel, much more so than any other Western nation.

Mr. Sebag Montefiore cannot of course get around the enormously important part played by his great-grandfather around that same time in litterally - and with his own money and efforts - restoring and expanding Jerusalem. This unavoidably leads to the suspicion that this book might have been titled: "Hey, let me tell you about the fantastic things my family did for Jerusalem!", but that would be doing this writer a grave injustice. It is a very well-written, well-balanced book that you will find no effort at all to get through and that will tell you a lot of things about Jerusalem that you did not know.
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on 20 August 2014
This was a very brave venture on which to embark. Jerusalem may be the holiest city on earth, acknowledged as such by all three Abrahamic religions (though Islam may put Mecca top of the list), but it has also been the site of appalling brutality throughout the ages. What makes this a brave venture is the fact that the controversies which led to all that brutality are very much alive today. And, what is more, the brutality continues. For a Jew, and one whose family has been closely involved with Jerusalem for many generations, to attempt an objective history of this sad and glorious city is courageous in the extreme.

But Simon Sebag Montefiore has succeeded. And succeeded brilliantly.

Only one of the founders of those three religions actually set foot in Jerusalem. Jesus, of course, did so often. Abraham didn't (because it didn't exist in his time) and neither did Muhammad (though it did). But the Jews founded the city and Muslims ran it for a thousand years. Throughout most of its history it has witnessed grotesque extremes of religious fervour. Jews have slaughtered innocent Arabs. Arabs have slaughtered innocent Jews. Both have slaughtered innocent Christians. Christians have slaughtered innocent Jews and Arabs. And all in the name of religion. The tragedy, of course, is that the slaughter goes on to this day (though the Christians do seem to have discovered, at last, that the founder of their religion - unlike both the others - did not live by the sword).

Sebag Montefiore triumphs because he describes both the vices and the virtues of Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Members of all three faiths can read this magnificent biography of a city in the confident knowledge that none of the religions is being put forward as being superior to the others.

This really is a wonderful read.

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on 23 December 2015
The book opens in stunning style with a detailed account of the Roman destruction of Herod's Temple.

We are then taken on a blistering ride through several thousand years of gruesome history as warring factions take it in turn to slaughter opponents and destroy the city, frequently leaving it as a barely inhabited ruin. However, by covering so much ground in just 500 pages the book skips through events and people making it hard to keep up with the characters as you move rapidly from one significant episode to the next. It does make for difficult reading, bewildering even, but the scope of the book, and the powerful writing, keeps you gripped to the end.
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on 15 February 2018
I knew that Jerusalem had a very long and checkered history, but this is amazing. It answers many questions and raises as many as it answers. At various stages in its history, Muslims, Christians and Jews all lived together in peace and shared the holy sites. Why can we not do that now? So much for earlier societies being primitive. It is time that Jerusalem, and the whole Middle East rediscovered that peaceful co-existence, and not the conflict loved by fanatics.
However, this is a book to read a few pages a day and not one to sit down and plough through chapter after chapter.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 17 October 2014
This books opens as a paen to violence with a catalogue of sieges, warfare, massacres and crucifixions. It then proceeds at a canter through the early years of Islam, the Crusades, the Middle Ages, the Ottoman Empire through to modern times with Lawrence of Arabia, Moshe Dayan, Menahem Begin, Yasser Arafat and a host of other colourful characters. There may be some inaccuracies (according to other reviewers) in this book but it's a great way of learning about one of the most beautiful and tragic cities in the world. it was never dull, the pace was fast and many of the facts are essential knowledge for any student of Middle East affairs. Possibly not one for the purists, but an excellent read for everyone else. Strongly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 4 October 2015
This flying account kept me interested pretty well from start to finish and gives a comprehensive picture of the city, the region, and the religions through the centuries. The last six chapters, in particular, illuminated where we all are now. Looked at from a contemporary snapshot, allowing that a contemporary snapshot might develop over the last twenty years, things look pretty hopeless. Take all of history into account and it looks even worse. Such a record of bloodshed, hatred and determined disaggregation is staggering.
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on 7 August 2017
Very good book written well by someone who clearly loves the story. I got this before visiting the city and it proved useful in immersing my wife and I in its history. Unlike so many other history books it is written in an excusable manner providing the colour that brings the history alive.
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