What a Saga!

Simon Schama’s new book is by no means a history of the Jews, despite its roughly chronological structure and distinct geographical frames. It is, as its title proclaims, a story, for which mere words barely suffice. What Schama has written demonstrates yet again his prodigious ability to write with fluency and panache, and to structure his work in surprising ways. It begins not with Abraham or Moses, or the parting of the Red Sea, but rather with a small group of Jewish mercenaries clustered, far from friends and relatives, on an island near the first cataract of the Nile in the service of the Persians.

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