Saturday, July 18, 2015

Review: Sicily: An Island at the Crossroads of History by John Julius Norwich

Advanced review copy from publisher via NetGallery. My opinions are my own.

Release Date: July 21, 2015

Everything you might ever want to know about the political history of Sicily, and then some. Extensively researched, this is the much deserved history of one of the most important islands in the world, stretching from the B.C. period all the way up to the mid-20th century.

The writing style is a little dry, very scholarly, and not always an easy read, but it serves as an excellent and much needed reference on the complicated history of Sicily. While it probably won't be a bestseller in the history book category, it will be of interest to many with a niche interest in Mediterranean history. It sometimes presumes the reader already has a basic understanding of many of the people, places, and topics discussed and therefore it's not necessarily an ideal book for beginners.

It opens with Sicily's Mycenaean beginnings, but quickly brushes over this period with little detail. If you're looking for a history book on the Mycenaeans, this is not it. It swiftly moves to the Greek colonization of the B.C. period, which it spends a good deal of time on before moving on to the Carthaginians. The next chapter is dedicated to the Romans, Barbarians, Byzantines, and Arabs so it plows through these mixed periods pretty quickly too, admitting that almost nothing is known about Sicilian history for the majority of the first few hundred years of Christianity. For me, it really picked up around the point it then reaches the Normans, perhaps because it begins to enter time periods I'm a little more familiar with, but also pulling a little more cultural aspects into what is a heavily political history.

It carries on through the rest of history, detailing each significant period all the way through the Second World War. Hugely comprehensive and a must read for anyone interested in Italian or Mediterranean history.

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