cover image The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words 1000 BCE–1492 CE

The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words 1000 BCE–1492 CE

Simon Schama. Ecco, $39.99 (512p) ISBN 978-0-06-053918-4

Award-winning Columbia Univ. historian Schama, NBCC Award winner for Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution, brings to bear his gift for synthesizing mountains of information into a well-crafted, accessible narrative in this impressive volume that spans nearly 2,500 years and serves as a companion volume to a PBS series. His aim is to incorporate the telling details that make the past, and its people, live and breathe for a modern audience—“the prosaic along with the poetic: a doodle on a child’s Hebrew exercise page from medieval Cairo; battling cats and mice on a sumptuously illustrated Bible from Spain... the aggravation of an NCO sweating it out on a hilltop fort while the Babylonians are closing in.” He opens with a Jewish soldier on Elephantine in 475 B.C.E., known from a letter sent by his father, discovered again after two-and a-half millennia, and continues through the expulsion of the Jews from Portugal. Throughout, Schama offers cogent arguments for the credibility of numerous sources, including the controversial Josephus, and supports the notion advanced by Rabbi Gershon Cohen that assimilation had its benefits, by stimulating growth and creativity for the Jews. Maps & Illus. Agents: Michael Sissons & Caroline Michel; Peters, Fraser & Dunlop (U.K.) (Mar.)