"Sicily," said Goethe, "is the key to everything." It is the largest island in the Mediterranean, the stepping-stone between Europe and Africa, the link between the Latin West and the Greek East. Sicily's strategic location has tempted Roman emperors, French princes, and Spanish kings. The subsequent struggles to conquer and keep it have played crucial roles in the rise and fall of the world's most powerful dynasties.
Yet Sicily has often been little more than a footnote in books about other empires. Here is a vivid, erudite chronicle of an island and the remarkable kings, queens, and tyrants who fought to rule it. From its beginnings as a Greek city-state to its emergence as a multicultural trading hub during the Crusades, from the rebellion against Italian unification to the rise of the Mafia, the story of Sicily is rich with extraordinary moments and dramatic characters. Writing with his customary deftness and humor, John Julius Norwich outlines the surprising influence Sicily has had on world history and tells the story of one of the world's most kaleidoscopic cultures in a galvanizing, contemporary way.
©2015 John Julius Norwich (P)2015 Tantor
This text brings to life centuries of Sicilian culture and history to help grasp the island's differences with Italy itself and the pivotal role it has played not only in the history of Italy, but in the world. Sadly, it seems to avoid many points and should be considered an overview of all history of Sicily. for anyone seeking a more detailed background on a certain period, I cannot recommend this book.
However, for those seeking a masterful telling of an overview of Sicilian history, look no further!
I recently returned from a six week, comprehensive exploration of Sicily. My special interest was in the Greek, Roman and Norman periods but I took in much of the rest as well. This book is hugely padded with non-Sicilian historical description, far more than needed to provide context. It exhaustively and boringly details minute aspects of monarchs who lived elsewhere. It ends in the 1950s. It is at its best a 5 on the 10-scale of Will Durant's Story of Civilization references to Sicily and at its worst a 2. Listening to this book was not time or money well spent.
John Julius Norwich is perhaps the greatest living non-Sicilian historian of that magical complex place. In this book he tells it's story. the reader is good, but mispronounces a lot of words in all languages, which can be somewhat distracting.
This is the 3rd book by John Julius Norwich that I have read, and it is without a doubt the best. Everyone who wants to understands Sicily's history should read this first. It is lively and comprehensive, but also incredibly concise and individual. The narrator, however, is a bit odd. While he generally reads well, he has a bizarre inability to pronounce the letter R. His pronunciation of Italian and French words is often unfortunate, but these words are not ubiquitous. The R problem is much more trying.
Overall interesting. Occasionally it feels it to s a series of historical events, but key info does come to life. Coverage of Muslim / Arab influence was thin.
If you love history, do not pass on this wonderful publication that is packed with eye opening information & colorful stories.
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