Adventures in Bookland: Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore
It’s not often given to a historian to write a history that features, as a major player, a relative, but that’s the responsibility presented to Simon Sebag Montefiore in this book – along with the task of telling the story of the most contested city in history. That he succeeds in bringing to vivid, but not airbrushed, life his great great uncle Moses Montefiore – one of the key figures in the Jewish reclamation of Jerusalem after centuries of exile – and in relating fairly the bloody tales of Jerusalem the Golden is testament to what a fine work of history this is. Jerusalem: The Biography is popular history – that is, history written for the people, not the specialist – at its best and I recommend it completely. Mind, it would take a writer of talent to render boring the story of Jerusalem, and the madmen, tyrants, saints and sinners that lived in, fought over and beseiged the city, and Montefiore’s talent does not lie in boring his readers. Quite the opposite: this is history as page turner, a thrill ride through the past.