Jerusalem: The Biography

Critical Acclaim for Jerusalem: The Biography


US REVIEWS


"Spectacular. (Montefiore) really tells you what the life of the city has been like and why it means to much to everyone... You fall in the love with the city and it breaks your heart that people can't make peace over it… It's a treasure. It's a wonderful book."
President Bill Clinton.
Number One book of the year. The Today Show, NBC.

"Ambitious and arresting, Jerusalem: the Biography is a powerful achievement, erudite without pedantry, and intimate with the complex archaeology... In the matter of the competing faiths, it is all but pitch-perfect...Jerusalem: the Biography is double-headed: 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

"Jerusalem: The Biography reads like a richly drawn novel, with complex characters—kings, priests, philo-Semites, and anti-Semites—and riveting anecdotes. It also puts the region’s contemporary conflict in perspective." Dan Ephron, Newsweek and Daily Beast

"There have been many histories of Jerusalem . . . but Mr. Montefiore's book is the city's first "biography"— a panoptic narrative of its rulers and citizens, heroes and villains, harlots and saints. In 550 pages, Mr. 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 . . . For a book that spans 3,000 years, it does a remarkably inclusive job.” Jonathan Rosen, New York Times Book Review

“Montefiore is that rarest of things: an historian who writes great weighty tomes that are as page-turning as the best thrillers. His biography of Stalin read like a successful HBO series. His new ‘biography’ of Jerusalem is no less readable. Sebag has a visceral understanding of what makes history worth reading. He manages to bring people who have been dead for two millennia alive again and make them breathe. Sebag seems to have an insight into the mind of psychopathic tyrants that makes you wish he was working for the US Secretary of State.” Philip Kerr, Newsweek

“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 . . . Meticulously researched.” —Imre Lake, Newark Star-Ledger

“Few historians have demonstrated the vision, mastery, and boldness necessary to publish on a subject so vast and in such detail as Montefiore . . . A marvellous panorama.” —Zachary T. Irwin, Library Journal

“Simon Montefiore’s new history of Jerusalem also brings the stones of the city to life. Jerusalem: The Biography is a masterful historical work, making use of contemporaneous sources, modern archeological discoveries, and ages of historical documents.” David E. Spiro, New York Journal of Books

“Simon Sebag Montefiore’s magnificent biography of Jerusalem has all the grandeur and sweep of her 3000-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

UK & EUROPEAN REVIEWS

“The must-read history. A masterwork. ” David Sexton, Evening Standard

'ALREADY A CLASSIC - a gripping and thought-provoking study of the city whose religious, political, and ethnic rivalries can be understood only in the context of 3000 years of history. Montefiore writes with verve, sensitivity, and a keen eye for entertaining historical detail.' Best Summer Reading, Tony Barber, Financial Times

“This vast and dazzling portrait of Jerusalem, utterly compelling from start to finish.” Christopher Hart, Sunday Times

“A master story-teller.” Jane Shilling, Evening Standard

“Astoundingly ambitious, triumphantly epic, tautly gripping, this marvellous book. The achievement in fashioning a fluent narrative out of such daunting material can hardly be praised enough. A book with its gaze fixed on the stars (but) also with its feet firmly in the gutter.” Tom Holland, The Daily Telegraph

After his acclaimed biographies of Stalin, Catherine the Great and Potemkin, Montefiore has finally turned to the book he was born to write." Books of the Year, The Economist

“An epic and utterly absorbing study of a 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 tremendous verve, sensitivity to historical controversy and an exceptional eye for the entertaining detail.” Financial Times, BOOKS OF THE YEAR

“One of the most ambitious and breathtakingly realised books of the year, Jerusalem the Biography. The world’s greatest city has found its perfect biographer in Montefiore. The city is brought to life not only through its wars but the people who made it. Spiritual, beastly and heroic, this is a gripping tale from first page to last. BOOKS OF THE YEAR.” Dan Jones, Daily Telegraph

“This wonderfully vibrant account… Balanced fair and above all colourful, Montefiore’s narrative does justice to every religious tradition and confirms his reputation as one of our finest popular historians,” Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times, BOOKS OF THE YEAR

“Triumphant biography of the city. It is the mark of his achievement that a fast-paced and relentlessly entertaining book should also be so true to the yearnings of those who have seen, shimmering beyond the earthly city of rock and dust, a celestial Jerusalem.” Tom Holland, The Guardian BOOKS OF THE YEAR

“Superb.” Lesley Chamberlain, New Statesman, BOOKS OF THE YEAR

“I was utterly engrossed in its history of murder and religion,” Frances Osborne, Evening Standard BOOKS OF THE YEAR

“Vast, vigourous history with entertaining Gibbonian footnotes,” Hermione Eyre, Evening Standard BOOKS OF THE YEAR

“Packed with fascinating and grisly detail, a gripping account of war, betrayal, rape, massacre, sadistic torture, fanaticism, feuds, corruption, hypocrisy and spirituality. Montefiore’s narrative is remarkably objective. A reliable and compelling account.” Antony Beevor, The Guardian

“Gripping. Supremely ambitious. This Meisterwerk… Montefiore has a novelist’s eye for detail, a great journalist’s nose for human frailty, and a great historian’s touch in selecting the right primary source to bring the past alive. Judicious, nuanced, balanced and sensitive. When a history is written this way, one can never have too much.” Michael Gove, The Times

“Jerusalem is an extraordinary achievement, written with an imagination and energy that threatens to mesmerise and exhaust the reader at the same time. The sheer superabundance of condensed historical episodes, attended by collapsing walls, internecine punch-ups and blood-curdling carnage, pile up and press down on each other like the prodigious archaeological detritus of the city itself. Taking his cue from the Arab historian Ibn Khaldun, who wrote that “dynasties have a natural lifespan like individuals”, Montefiore sees the story of Jerusalem as “biography”. The notion is just, for 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. Montefiore tells the modern story with clarity and admirable impartiality … READ THIS BOOK!” John Cornwell, Financial Times

“The book is an enormous and enthralling epic, the prose equivalent of those sprawling Hollywood films such as The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur or The Fall Of The Roman Empire. Here are dashing warrior kings, feuding prophets and priests, beautiful and dangerous women, spectacular battles and a potent mix of piety and profanity. All human life was there. All human life is here. This magnificent history gives the general reader a vivid insight into a conflict that seems without resolution. Monumental.“ Peter Burton, Daily Express

“Totally gripping. Compelling. A labour of love and scholarship. A considerable achievement. A wonderful ear for the absurdities and adventurers of the past.” Barnaby Rogerson, The Independent

“Outstanding, superbly objective, elegantly-written and highly entertaining.” Saul David, Mail on Sunday

“Jerusalem by Simon Sebag Montefiore– I’ve been reading that from the end backwards which is a slightly strange approach!” David Cameron, Best Summer Books, The Spectator

“Montefiore really does give you the history of a living, breathing city. Epic, challenging and possibly reckless - a page-turner that any reader of any faith or no faith at all can relish. Irresistible stuff.” Alyson Rudd, The Times

“Simon Sebag Montefiore's "biography" of the city of Jerusalem, eye-opening and hair-raising in equal measure, has outsold almost all the celebs. His spectacular chronicle of unholy deeds in holy places; his history of an ever-disputed ground, with its ebullient equal-opportunity account of the manifold crimes, perennial hypocrisy and very occasional generosity of all the powers and personalities who have invaded the city's sacred space.” Boyd Hilton, The Independent

“The story of Jerusalem gives as many examples of human cruelty, greed, hatred, pedantry, vanity, fanaticism and stark raving madness as the history of anything anywhere. I recommend that you read the book from cover to cover. There is never a dull page. Part of the skill of this book is that it enables the reader to feel sympathy with – and disgust at – all parties. The author is a Jew, and his celebrated antecedent Sir Moses Montefiore is one of the heroes of this book…But this is no triumphalist account. Romans, Crusaders, Ottomans, Russians, Arabs, British, French, Americans, all get their moments of glory. His tale of the defeat of the old Jerusalem Palestinian families is particularly touching. This book does not make the reader take sides. It tells the tragic story of one of our great human non-sequiturs – the belief that, if we love something, we must possess it.” Charles Moore, The Daily Telegraph

“Magisterial. Montefiore has been preparing all his life to write this particular book and he has given much thought to how it should be approached. The story is told chronologically through the lives of the men and women who shaped it and this straightforward approach works well. Mr Montefiore steers a clear path through the religious animosities and political intrigues, adopting a strikingly apolitical tone. He adds richness by including sources not usually available in English… As a writer, Mr 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

« Dans son dernier ouvrage, Simon Sebag Montefiore montre son talent et sa minutie au service d'une ville de furie : Jérusalem. Un tableau de maître. Quel souffle ! Il faut être Simon Sebag Montefiore pour donner, même au lecteur avisé, l'impression revigorante qu'il n'avait jamais rien lu sur Jérusalem précédemment. Dans une fresque éblouissante, qui se déroule imperturbablement sur 700 pages, on en apprend à chaque ligne. Fidèle à sa réputation de méticulosité, l'auteur renouvelle complètement le plus rabâché des sujets en y ajoutant la dimension de la chair, des odeurs de putrescence et de corruption, des détails qui frappent l'imagination et qui ne la quittent plus. C'est en explorant les tréfonds que l'on en arrive aux sommets, à cette cité taillée à vif dans le sacré, "lieu essentiel sur Terre de la communication entre Dieu et les hommes". Une méthode historique imparable, un bonheur de lecture incomparable. « Christian Makarian, L’Express, Paris

“A dazzling historical encyclopaedia that brings alive the world of the three faiths…Its splendid historical cast includes scheming kings, manipulative queens, bloodthirsty warlords, genocidal emperors, wildeyed prophets and alluring harlots. An excellent primer on the origins of the three religions… Anyone wishing to understand the religious forces and passions that shape much of our modern world would benefit from reading Jerusalem. Scrupulously fair…Wonderfully evocative.” Adam LeBor, Literary Review

“Jerusalem: the Biography - a wonderful mixture of biography, archaeology and brains.” Kate Mosse, Woman & Home magazine

“Immensely important… immensely readable,” Bettany Hughes, Daily Express “Vivid, violent, anecdotal, and full of crazy OTT characters…Admirably impartial.” Sue Arnold, The Guardian

“This masterly, vastly entertaining and timely book. Montefiore succeeds because of the power of his storytelling, an unerring eye for the vivid detail. A compelling narrative and an important book.” Victor Sebestyen, Evening Standard

“Compelling and thought-provoking, fascinating but ghastly, Montefiore narratives the terrible history vividly and graphically.” Munro Price, The Sunday Telegraph

“Ambitious and politically courageous, a gripping read. This magnificent history.” Rebecca Abrams, The New Statesman

“A tour de force.” Philip Mansel, The Spectator

“To write a “biography” of Jerusalem is a formidable undertaking. 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. The author is especially good on archaeology. Just under the surface of Jerusalem lie 3,000 years’ worth of stones and bones. Many stones have been disinterred and reused. Newer buildings rest on the foundations of ancient ones. The city centre is an archaeological palimpsest, and Montefiore appears to have mastered the scholarship. But this is not an arid process: he can make the stones live and sing. He would be an excellent guide on an archaeological tour. He also brings out the politicised complexity of all this…” Bruce Anderson, Prospect

“A brilliant new book by Simon Sebag Montefiore, Jerusalem brings its history to life. And a gruesome life it is, too.” Virginia Blackburn, Daily Express

“He writes with elegance and authority,” Diarmid MacCullough, London Review

“A vast, gripping history, tumultuous and very bloody.” Hermione Eyre, Evening Standard

“This superb book.” Paul Levy, Wall Street Journal

“Jerusalem deserves a great biographer and Simon Sebag Montefiore is equal to the task…Montefiore has provided the best in recent memory.” Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post

“As I think of the countless books on the subject, none even comes close to this one. The book is utterly compelling. Jerusalem: the Biography is a masterpiece that could only have been written by someone who has Jerusalem in his blood. This is a history without political or religious bias. This is simply a book that must be read by all who are serious about this great city.” Reverend Canon Andrew White, Third Way

“There are literally hundreds of books about Jerusalem but few achieve objectivity as masterfully as Mr Montefiore. Some readers will be suspicious of the later history given Mr Montefiore’s family’s close links with Jewish Jerusalem. However this reviewer did not detect the slightest hint of bias in the treatment of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Overall Jerusalem: the Biography tell the fascinating tale of an even-more fascinating city.” Michael Kelly, The Irish Catholic newspaper

"The book by the British historian and writer whose output includes two works about Stalin (Young Stalin & Stalin. The Court of the Red Tsar), is an incredibly ambitious project, and also - despite a great many of footnotes and references - a piece of reading as exciting as a crime novel, full of dramatic scenes, unexpected turns, and vivid human portraits". Tygodnik Powszechny (Polish Catholic weekly)

“A compelling new book by Montefiore, an English historian and Jew whose earlier works, notable for their accurate research and pacey storytelling have captivated an international audience.” John Hinton, Catholic Herald

“TOP CHOICE: Jerusalem: the Biography: full of colour and verve, this vast dazzling portrait of the city is engrossing from start to finish.” Sunday Times Top Summer Reads

“Simon Sebag Montefiore says that ‘the story of Jerusalem is the story of the world’, because the city becomes more and more a centre of the world. He tells its story with impressive sweep and brilliance.This is a must-read” Tomasz Bielecki, „Gazeta Wyborcza” (Poland)

“Montefiore is a first rate storyteller…A very exciting read.” Time Out

“Jerusalem is as a big as it gets. Brilliantly accomplished.” Dan Jones, Independent on Sunday

“This compendious, fleet-footed history of a city.” Jonathan Beckman, The Observer

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