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 Jerusalem is as a big as its gets... brilliantly accomplished -- Dan Jones INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY This is [a] compendious and fleet-footed history of a city -- Jonathan Beckman THE OBSERVER A riveting account of the eternal battle to prove whose God is best. WORD magazine 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. -- Peter Burton DAILY EXPRESS a tour de force -- Philip Mansel SPECTATOR Montefiore has constructed a narrative that has a pleasing flow and more than does justice to his subject...his history is remarkably clear-eyed and even-handed whether recounting tales of Jewish, Persian, Greek, Roman, Arab, Crusader, Ottoman or British rulers of the city. SUNDAY HERALD, GLASGOW Religion is not an abstract theory...It involves the story of people's actual encounters with God. Simon Sebag Montefiore understands this...his lack of theological training... makes him exceptionally sympathetic to the city whose story he tells. He is not trying to impose some theory upon it. He just wants to tell the tale of its terrible, beautiful, God-intoxicated, squalid (and surprisingly louche) life...There is never a dull page. -- Charles Moore DAILY TELEGRAPH superb -- Paul Levy WALL STREET JOURNAL compelling...it is a tribute to the author's skill that he has been able to make 672 pages highly readable. CATHOLIC HERALD 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. When Queen Victoria's son, the 20-year-old Prince of Wales and future King Edward VII, rode into Jerusalem in 1862, escorted by 100 Ottoman cavalrymen, the plump princeling could think of little else but getting a Crusader tattoo on his arm... It is this kind of detail that makes "Jerusalem" a particular joy to read. THE ECONOMIST authoritative and illuminating...Cantering through 3,000 years of dramatic history at a lively pace and with never a dull moment in the 500-odd pages... I found the chapters about the British rule in the region especially fascinating...[a] commendable analysis THE OLDIE Sebag Montefiore made a judicious choice in privileging the modern era while not neglecting any important chapter in the city's history. This reviewer... was impressed by Sebag Montefiore's ability to find the right tone, and to retain a fair approach to Jerusalem's history. TLS Anyone with an interest in history should read this, if only to be reminded of just how much history has rolled back and forth over this pile of stones between 1458 and today. In fact, when compared with the carnage visited on it by the Romans, Crusaders, Albanians and, in the 12th century, the teenage King of Norway, the last 100 years there have been relatively peaceful. -- David Hepworth THE WORD MAGAZINE - 10 Best Books of 2011
Jerusalem lacks a biography. It lacks a secret history. Simon Sebag Montefiore's account is seen through kings, conquerors, emperors, soldiers, Moslems, Jews, Christians, Macedonians, Romans and Greeks, Palestinians and Israelis, from King David, via Nebachunezzar, Alexander, Herod, Caesar, Cleopatra, Jesus, Saladin, to King Hussein, Anwar Sadat and Ariel Sharon. Jerusalem is the centre of the world, the capital of three faiths, the prize of many conquerors, the jewel of many empires, the eye of the storm of today's battle of civilisations. Sebag Montefiore has been going to Jerusalem all his life. There is a special family connection: Sir Moses Montefiore, his nineteenth century great-great uncle, is the founder of the new city of Jerusalem - and so a character in this book. The Montefiore Quarter and its Montefiore Windmill, which he built in 1836, are still at the city's centre.
Jerusalem has, says Sebag Montefiore, always been a magical city but in terms of its history, the obsession with three faiths and its mystique, have ignored the story of the real city, a gritty, dirty, violent story about power, empire, love, vanity, luxury, death, not always a clash of civilisations and faiths.