It is a story like no other: an epic of endurance against destruction, of creativity in oppression, joy amidst grief, the affirmation of life against the steepest of odds. It spans the millennia and the continents - from India to Andalusia and from the bazaars of Cairo to the streets of Oxford. It takes you to unimagined places: to a Jewish kingdom in the mountains of southern Arabia; a Syrian synagogue glowing with radiant wall paintings; the palm groves of the Jewish dead in the Roman catacombs. And its voices ring loud and clear, from the severities and ecstasies of the Bible writers to the love poems of wine bibbers in a garden in Muslim Spain.
And a great story unfolds. Not - as often imagined - of a culture apart, but of a Jewish world immersed in and imprinted by the peoples among whom they have dwelled, from the Egyptians to the Greeks, from the Arabs to the Christians. Which makes the story of the Jews everyone's story, too.
©2013 Simon Scama (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
Scholarly yet accessible account of early Jewish history. I'm Impatiently waiting for the next instalment.
First the Reading - always important to those of us who are addicted to audible.
It's a game of two halves.
When I saw that Simon Schama I thought that the reading would be better - but no. Andrew Sachs reads like a man who has been poked in the eye and hit on the head far too often. He has no characterisation and provides no rise and fall in his voice. He breaks sentances in the wrong places and generally sounds like a man merely reading words, but having no understanding of the topic.
Thankfully he only reads the first part and is followed by Saul Reichlin, who does a much better job. It's hard to know if he reads it well, or just better than Andrew Sachs.
Now for the content.
I listen to a lot of history on Audible. Mainly the Great Courses series, which are proper academics at the top of their subject. Some take the broad sweep and deal with the rise and fall of kingdoms, the movements of people and the causes of those great themes. Others deal with social history diving in for a close up of the daily life and minutiae of ordinary people.
Sadly Simon Schama does neither of these.
A big story needs a big picture, and there is no greater story than the story of the Jewish people. Triumphant, pivotal in many empires and influencing the whole of world history and human culture the Jewish people have never been safe, but have always survived. The way in which empires have risen and fallen around them, the rise of monotheism.
But this is a little book about little people. We are introduced to dozens, maybe hundreds of people who happen to have written a shopping list or a note to their son and whose note has happened to survive.
Schama leaps around the world and through time to confuse the listener.
It's like being at a party with a hundred strangers. You just get chatting to one you think is interesting when the host whips them away and you are left with the village bore.
If you enjoy listening to audio books, you will hate this reading.
If you enjoy history, of any kind, you will be frustrated by this book.
My advise - don't waste your money.
A very, very long book that really needs to be read in several sections. A good presentation of part of the history of the Jews with only three draw backs. The first is the length, which can be sorted out by reading in several chunks. Secondly the slightly deadpan way the book was read and finally it was very hard to keep track of who was who and where they were. I would suggest that it would provide a good read and just to go with the flow and don't try to keep track of the people who are being written about and just focus on the events.
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