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Jerusalem: The Biography Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 25, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First American edition (October 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307266516
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307266514
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.7 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (256 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #127,584 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“It's a wonderful book . . . [Montefiore] really tries to tell you what the life of the city has been like . . . why it means so much to everyone and why it’s so spectacular. You fall in love with the city and it breaks your heart that people can’t make peace over it, because it’s a treasure.” 
 —President Bill Clinton, #1 holiday book pick on the Today Show
 
“Magnificent . . . The city’s first ‘biography’—a panoptic narrative of its rulers and citizens, heroes and villains, harlots and saints . . . Montefiore barely misses a trick or a character in taking us through the city’s story with compelling, breathless tension.”
—Norman Lebrecht, Wall Street Journal
 
“Impossible to put down . . . A vastly enjoyable chronicle [with] many fascinating asides . . . Montefiore has a fine eye for the telling detail, and also a powerful feel for a good story.”
—Jonathan Rosen, New York Times Book Review
 
“This is a fittingly vast and dazzling portrait of Jerusalem, utterly compelling from start to finish.”
—Christopher Hart, Sunday Times (UK)

“Immensely readable . . . Montefiore is that rarest of things: a historian who writes great, weighty tomes that read like the best thrillers . . . He has a visceral understanding of what makes history worth reading.”
—Philip Kerr, Newsweek

 
“Ambitious and arresting . . . A powerful achievement, erudite without pedantry, and intimate with the complex archaeology of the city on the ground. In the matter of competing faiths, it is all but pitch-perfect . . . Jerusalem: The Biography is a double-headed book: at once a scholarly record and an exuberantly written popular tour de force.”
—Colin Thubron, New York Review of Books

“Sweeping and absorbing . . . Montefiore is a master of colorful and telling details and anecdotes . . . His account is admirably dispassionate and balanced.”
—Jackson Diehl, Washington Post Book World

“Magisterial . . . As a writer, Montefiore has an elegant turn of phrase and an unerring ear for the anecdote that will cut to the heart of a story . . . It is this kind of detail that makes Jerusalem a particular joy to read.”
The Economist 
 
“Simon Sebag Montefiore’s magnificent biography of Jerusalem has all the grandeur and sweep of her 3,000-year history. His masterful research and his gift for bringing it all to life make this fascinating work a treasure-trove for scholars and laymen alike.”
—Henry Kissinger

“In his stunningly comprehensive history, Simon Sebag Montefiore covers 3,000-plus years of the Earth’s most fiercely contested piece of geography . . . Not only has Montefiore delivered a piece of superb scholarship, he has done so in an extremely easy-to-read style. The author tells the history of the complex relationships that existed between long-dead peoples in a manner that makes them seem human and understandable.”
—Imre Lake, Newark Star-Ledger

“A Meisterwerk . . . As one becomes gripped by the rich, pungent detail of the lives of Jerusalem’s rulers and the ruled, it becomes clear why this work was conceived as a biography. It provides a perfect, almost providentially designed, opportunity for one of our greatest biographers to display every one of his skills. Montefiore has a novelist’s eye, a great journalist’s nose and a great historian’s touch . . . He manages to construct a history that no fair-minded reader can conclude is anything other than judicious, nuanced, balanced, and sensitive . . . When history is written this way one can never have too much.” 
—Michael Gove, Times (UK)

“Already a classic—a gripping and thought-provoking study of the city whose modern religious, political and ethnic rivalries can be understood only in the context of its preceding 3,000 years of history. Montefiore writes with verve, sensitivity and a keen eye for the entertaining historical detail.” 
Financial Times
 
“A masterly, vastly entertaining, and timely book . . . Montefiore succeeds because of the power of his storytelling. [He] has an unerring eye for the vivid detail to illustrate his point and the telling quote to place it in context . . . Some fascinating sources are entirely new to English readers . . . This is a compelling narrative and an important book.” 
—Victor Sebestyen, Evening Standard 
 
“An astoundingly ambitious, triumphantly epic history of the city . . . Montefiore’s achievement, in fashioning a fluent narrative out of such daunting material, can hardly be praised enough . . . A marvellous book.”
—Tom Holland, The Sunday Telegraph
 
“Montefiore’s book, packed with fascinating and often grisly detail, is a gripping account of war, betrayal, looting, rape, massacre, sadistic torture, fanaticism, feuds, persecution, corruption, hypocrisy, and spirituality.”  
—Antony Beevor, Guardian 
 
“An outstanding work . . . Anyone who has a role to play [in the future of Jerusalem] would do well to read this superbly objective, elegantly written, and highly entertaining book.” 
—Saul David, Mail on Sunday 

 “This is an essential book for those who wish to understand a city that remains a nexus of world affairs . . . Although his Jewish family has strong links to the city, Montefiore scrupulously sustains balance and objectivity . . . Beautifully written, absorbing.”
—Jay Freeman, Booklist (starred)
 
“A panoramic narrative of Jerusalem, organized chronologically and delivered with magisterial flair. Spanning eras from King David to modern Israel with rich anecdotes and vivid detail, this exceptional volume portrays the personalities and worldviews of the dynasties and families that shaped the city throughout its 3,000-year history.”
Publishers Weekly (starred)
 
“Jerusalem has been the subject [of] surprisingly few single-authored books aimed at retracing her uniquely varied, long and rich history. Simon Sebag Montefiore, to whom we already owe a debt for his magisterial biography of Stalin, has daringly attempted just that . . . He has both read voraciously, and made excellent use of family archives . . . This reviewer, resident in the Jewish part of Jerusalem, was impressed by Sebag Montefiore’s ability to find the right tone, and to retain a fair approach to Jerusalem’s history . . . A lively book.”
—Guy G. Stroumsa, Times Literary Supplement (UK)

“Totally gripping . . . Montefiore’s history of Jerusalem is a labour of love and scholarship. It is a considerable achievement to have created a sense of pace and variety throughout his 3,000-year narrative. He has a wonderful ear for the absurdities and the adventurers of the past.”    
—Barnaby Rogerson, Independent 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

About the Author

Simon Sebag Montefiore read history at Cambridge University. His books have been published in more than thirty-five languages. Potemkin: Catherine the Great’s Imperial Partner was short-listed for the Samuel Johnson, Duff Cooper and Marsh Biography prizes in Britain. Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar was awarded the History Book of the Year Prize at the British Book Awards. Young Stalin won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography, the Costa Biography Award (U.K.), le Grand Prix de la biographie politique (France) and the Bruno Kreisky Prize for Political Literature (Austria). A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, Montefiore lives in London with his wife, the novelist Santa Montefiore, and their two children.

Customer Reviews

Very hard to put book down once I started reading.
paul
Simon Sebag Montefiore has written a very well researched book that gives a concise and unbiased account of the history of Jerusalem.
Ravarch
I recommend this one to anyone interested in history, religion or the middle east.
Banquero

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

304 of 316 people found the following review helpful By Asmahan on May 16, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
I came to this book as an Arab reader, growing up with songs, poems, and books written about beloved Jerusalem, but never have I come across a book offering such a luxurious detailed and honest view and at such a scale! Written with remarkable neutrality and taking us through the diverse and rich history of the most disputed and news making region in the world! This comprehensive, and unpatronising treatment of Jerusalem's past is neither overwhelmingly scholarly to gloss over the gory (and fascinating) details, nor too hurried as to miss out important facts. Simon Sebag Montefiore combines the rare talent of total political and cultural understanding with a great and most eloquent narrating skill!

"Jerusalem, the Biography" is a new sort of History, written as a biography, through the people who made Jerusalem, starting with King David and ending with Barrack Obama, over a span of 3000 years. Each section is about a person who, made, destroyed, believed in, or fought for Jerusalem, some are ordinary people, some are monsters and dictators. There is massacre, siege, blood, violence, but also beautiful poetry.

The story of Jerusalem, is truly (as the author expressed) the story of the world, as well, of the Middle East, of religion, of holiness, of empire! I was thrilled to read about one of the greatest philosophers, the Arab historiographer "Ibn Khaldoon", about Suleiman the Magnificent, Caliph Muawiya, Saladin Dynasty, Druze princess and angelic voiced Singer "Asmahan", the Hashemite (Sherifian) Dynasty, and most exciting to read was some poignant poetry by Nizar Qabbani.
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99 of 105 people found the following review helpful By N_Doll on June 22, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
Simon Montefiore has already proven himself as a superb biography writer in his works on Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsarand Catherine the Great and Potemkinamong others, he then made the very difficult transition of writing a novel - Sashenka: A Novel which once again impressed with a beautiful story and yes, the attention to historical detail that only a true expert is capable of.

In Jerusalem he surpassed himself. This was a true masterpiece - a biography of a city yet so much more. This isn't just a retelling of facts - through stories, anecdotes, and pages and pages of researched history you really feel as if you are stepping back through time and experiencing Jerusalem's history first hand.

Jerusalem is never boring, like the city itself it is vibrant, mysterious, and occasionally controversial. Yet even as I found myself disagreeing with the author - I was still enjoying the book. I could not put it down.

When discussing Jerusalem there will always be more than one voice, and more often than not those voices are raised, but Montefiore's Jerusalem tries to bring as many voices as possible and include them in the narrative. That is just one of the things that make Jerusalem unique.

I cannot recommend Jerusalem enough, it is a 'Must Read' - absolutely brilliant, I feel privileged to have read it and as always, wait impatiently to read what Simon Montefiore has in store.

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77 of 85 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 24, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
When I first started to read this book I was often quite irritated. The author clearly knew so much about the pre 19th century world of and around Jerusalem that I was frustrated that he did not go into more detail. The long succession of characters, the leaping over large gaps in time, all led me to put aside the book repeatedly. Yet I persevered and thank goodness I did. As it ran into the 19th and 20th centuries and the detail seemed to come more into view (or possibly I could see it just as one reads a book, identifying the shapes without having to recognise each letter).

And the object of the book began to become clearer (maybe I am none too bright and should have seen this earlier). It became more and more apparent that Jerusalem is almost a metaphor for human kind's frailties, faiths and prejudices. While many of the characters throughout history have been wise enough to realise that compromises and accommodation are possible without necessarily sacrificing all the principles they adhere to, regrettably there are others who can only see the world in a binary black and white, whether they be fundamentalist Christians, Islamists or Jews or whatever. These often use a very selective view of history to justify prejudice and religiously inspired mayhem.

I am in admiration of this remarkable work and wish to thank the author for providing many hours of enjoyable stimulation.
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83 of 99 people found the following review helpful By J. Stewart Schneider on November 17, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'd be happier with closer proof reading. The Mediterranean isn't eastward of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar didn't take Jerusalem 100 years before he was born, and Jesus isn't the Aramaic for Joshua. Yes, it's a well written book, but these clinkers make me unwilling to accept it as authoritative.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By David A. Thomas on March 10, 2013
Format: Paperback
This is a remarkable book in several ways, and I have rarely been so truly ambivalent when writing a review. The fact that the author foretells such reactions in his introduction does little to mitigate these feelings or justify his work.

On the one hand, the book is well-written and contains some fascinating detail. Montefiore knows how to do research and convey it in a readable and hence enjoyable fashion. I never find him tiresome, and I learn things constantly as I read. He has a way of incorporating details and then allowing the reader to see the bigger picture in a way that is truly admirable.

On the other hand, Montefiore is a rare combination of incredulity and naive, uncritical acceptance when it comes to the sacred. For example, he tersely declares that Herod's massacre of the innocents "never happened" (when even the most liberal scholars grudgingly admit such an act would be most like Herod, and since erstwhile historians would have little reason to record the death of a dozen peasant children in a sleepy village, silence is hardly an argument), while on the other hand speculating in almost tabloid fashion about Mary the mother of Jesus remarrying one Clopas (when different Marys are as common in the Gospel accounts as squirrels in an oak forest). In some cases, he makes absurd assertions that no self-respecting New Testament scholar would even think (such as Jesus' brother, James, being one of his original twelve apostles--that James only rose to prominence after the birth of the church).
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More About the Author

Simon Sebag Montefiore's bestselling, prize-winning books are now published in over 45 languages. A historian specializing in Russia and the Middle East, Dr Montefiore's next major book is 'The Romanovs 1613-1918', a full political, cultural and personal history of the 19 tsars of the dynasty that ruled Russia for over 300 years and an analysis of the nature of Russian empire, to be published in 2016.

'Potemkin: Catherine the Great's Imperial Partner' was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson, Duff Cooper, and Marsh Biography Prizes. 'Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar' won the History Book of the Year Prize, British Book Awards. 'Young Stalin' won LA Times Book Prize for Biography (USA), the Costa Biography Award (UK), the Kreisky Prize for Political Literature (Austria) and Le Grand Prix de la Biographie Politique (France). Both Stalin biographies were bestsellers internationally. 'Jerusalem: the Biography' won the Jewish Book of the Year Prize in the USA and was number one non-fiction bestseller in the UK and an international bestseller.

He is also the author of two novels. 'One Night in Winter' won the Best Political Novel of the Year Prize in Britain and was longlisted for the Orwell Prize. His thriller-love-stories set in Russia - 'One Night in Winter' and 'Sashenka' - are both in paperback.

A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Visiting Professor at Buckingham University, he is the presenter of three BBC tv series, Jerusalem(2011); Rome (2012) and Istanbul/Constantinople -'Byzantium: a tale of 3 cities'(2013). He was educated at Harrow School and Caius College, Cambridge University where he received his Doctorate of Philosophy.
Twitter: @simonmontefiore
For more information: www. simonsebagmontefiore.com


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