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Publisher's Summary

"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

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Sicily: The Unknown Sister of Despair

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!

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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DISAPPOINTING

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.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Thorough & Interesting

If you are a real history buff and interested in the history of Sicily, this is as good as it gets. Quite thorough without getting bogged down in too much minutiae. Not too many places on earth have such a diverse and chaotic history...

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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A Fine, if Abbreviated, History of Sicily

This book offers a fine, if abbreviated, history of Sicily. Granted, there is a vast amount of history associated with this magnificent island, and trying to cover the breadth of it in the course of one book is bound to be challenging. It covers the history from prehistoric times all the way through World War II and the modern. Each era is dealt with rather quickly, and leaves you wanting more. The sections on Greek, Roman, Arab/Norman, Giuseppe Garibaldi and the rise of the Mafia are particularly interesting. It is interesting to note that so much of Sicilian history is impacted by the broader history of Europe. One conquering power after the other, perhaps in Sicily more than anywhere else in the Mediterranean, has left its mark on the island. As such, you will at times feel like you are reading a history of the Mediterranean, and indeed Europe, rather than strictly Sicily. This also leads to my one quibble with the book: while it broadly outlines the history of Europe, it does not always do a good job of describing the history of the Sicilian people themselves. The one exception to this is during the discussion on the mafia, and how the people of Sicily were impacted by it and reacted to it. If you are at all interested in the island, I highly recommend this book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Fabulous history, strange pronunciation

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.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Awful

This is the worse book on Sicialian history ever. The author spends hours just writing about the kings and queens of Sicily.

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Fascinating history, marred

I read this in anticipation of a trip to Sicily, and found it fascinating, if a little hard to keep up with all of the rulers, scandals, murders and repression. I love the author, but could have used a hard copy to keep everyone straight. What annoyed me, however, was the narrator's butchering Italian names and place names - sometimes rendering them virtually incomprehensible. Sciacca, for example, is a town on the southern coast, pronounced roughly Shock-ah. At one point, the reader pronounces it SKI-AH-ka.

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Great book, great author

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.

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A very good history book.

This book "back filled" many holes in my historical knowledge, ranging from about 500 BC thru the early 1950's I liked it very much.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Bryan Baker
  • 325 North End Ave., Apt. 7I, New York, NY 10282
  • 03-16-16

worth listen if a topic of intetest

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.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful