Tourists, armchair travelers, and historians will all delight in this fluid narrative that can be read straight through, dipped into over time, or used as a reference guide to each period in Sicily's fascinating tale.
Emigration of people from Sicily often overshadows the importance of the people who immigrated to the island through the centuries. These have included several who became Sicily's rulers, along with Jews, Ligurians, and Albanians. Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Goths, Byzantines, Muslims, Normans, Hohenstaufens, Spaniards, Bourbons, the Savoy Kingdom of Italy and the modern era have all held sway, and left lasting influences on the island's culture and architecture. Sicily's character has also been determined by what passed it by: events that affected Europe generally, namely the Crusades and Columbus's discovery of the Americas, remarkably had little influence on Italy's most famous island.
©2006 Sandra Benjamin (P)2012 Steerforth Press LLC
"A compact history of the Mediterranean's largest island, the most frequently conquered spot on earth. . . . The author does an especially good job of explaining how history never quite goes away in Sicily, how through the accretion of centuries, through so many varied influences, the island's unique culture has emerged. . . . A useful introduction to a portion of the world whose crowded history is not easily condensed." (Kirkus Reviews)
"Benjamin ... manages to deliver this fantastic island in all its kaleidoscopic variety. Although she takes us from pre-history to present day, the pace feels unhurried and the writing almost conversational. Divided into chapters devoted to each successive wave of invader, Sicily keeps our attention in the first place thanks to Sicily's layered history and colorful cast of heroes and scoundrels. and in the second to Benjamin's wonderfully terse, ironic tone and lively sense of the ridiculous." (Providence Journal)
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"It improved with time"
I was initially disappointed with this book - 3000 years is a lot to cover and the years BC were very confusing and not very exciting listening. I felt that the wars between the different greek colonies ended up being a list that just baffled me.
I was particularly interested in the Norman occupation and that didn't disappoint and really from then on it was well written and held my interest.
Poor Sicily has had many invasions and masters. It has been included in several empires and ruled by kings and emperors that lived far away. None of it really changed the character of the sicilians themselves.
The latter part of the book concerned itself with the unification of Italy and the mafia which made most interesting listening but it took a lot of getting to.
I do recommend this book - persist with it and you will get to some hidden gems and nuggets of interesting information.
I am planning a trip to Sicily and bought the print version of this book to read. I spend so much time (3 hours a day round trip) commuting in terrible traffic, I was delighted to see that it was also available in audio, so I listened to it instead of reading it. I am happy to report the audio version was outstanding.
The writing is simple and straightforward - totally appreciated - and the story of the island is fascinating. It's made learning about Sicily fun and interesting. I think the book is great background for anyone planning to travel to Sicily. I only wish the author had written more books. I think this is the best basic introduction to the island's history. I feel it's better than any guidebook I own (and I own pretty much all of them) - very focused and easy to follow...better than spending a fortune on tour guides!
Again, if you are planning a trip, this is ESSENTIAL background - and well delivered. Highly recommended
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