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Sicily: An Island at the Crossroads of History (Hardcover)

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Critically acclaimed author John Julius Norwich weaves the turbulent story of Sicily into a spellbinding narrative that places the island at the crossroads of world history.

“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. John Julius Norwich’s engrossing narrative is the first to knit together all of the colorful strands of Sicilian history into a single comprehensive study. Here is a vivid, erudite, page-turning 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, Norwich outlines the surprising influence Sicily has had on world history—the Romans’ fascination with Greek civilization dates back to their sack of Sicily—and tells the story of one of the world’s most kaleidoscopic cultures in a galvanizing, contemporary way.

This volume has been a long time coming—Norwich began to explore Sicily’s colorful history during his first visit to the island in the early 1960s. The dean of popular historians leads his readers through the millennia with the steady narrative hand of a master teacher or the world’s most learned tour guide. Like the island itself, Sicily is a book brimming with bold flavors that begs to be revisited again and again.

Praise for Sicily

“Suavely readable . . . The very model of a popular historian, [Norwich] writes to give pleasure to the common reader. And what pleasure it is.”The Wall Street Journal

“Entertaining on every page . . . There is something ancient and sorrowful in Sicily, ‘some dark, brooding quality,’ just as captivating as its spellbinding history or its beautiful and varied landscapes, from beaches to lemon groves, pine forests to volcanoes. . . . The most amiable and freewheeling of guides, Norwich will always find time for the amusing anecdote.”The Sunday Times

“Utterly engrossing . . . written with passion about the art and architecture of this magical island, filled with gossipy tidbits and sweeping historical theories.”The Daily Beast

“Dazzling . . . Norwich is an elegantly graceful and entertaining storyteller.”Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Charming . . . richly nuanced history relayed with enormous fondness.”Kirkus Reviews

“A brisk and always-lively tour.”Open Letters Monthly

“Norwich is deeply in love with Sicily. [His] boundless affection has inspired a determined effort to understand its painful past. The result is impressionistic, as love often is.”The Times

“Norwich sketches personalities vividly. . . . He does the island and the reader a generous service in providing such an amiable introduction.”The Sunday Telegraph

“Norwich tells [Sicily’s] long, sad but fascinating story with sympathy and brio.”Literary Review

About the Author


John Julius Norwich was the author of more than twenty books, including the New York Times bestseller Absolute Monarchs. He began his career in the British foreign service, but resigned his diplomatic post to become a writer. He was a chairman of the Venice in Peril Fund and the honorary chairman of the World Monuments Fund. John Julius Norwich died in 2018.

Praise For…


“Suavely readable . . . The very model of a popular historian, [John Julius Norwich] writes to give pleasure to the common reader. And what pleasure it is. . . . Even by European standards, Sicilian history is a crazy-quilt affair, and the nearly 3,000 years of it covered by Mr. Norwich—from the founding of the first Greek colonies in the eighth century B.C. through World War II—feature a ‘Who’s Who’ of powers, dynasties and civilizations.”The Wall Street Journal

“Entertaining on every page . . . There is something ancient and sorrowful in Sicily, ‘some dark, brooding quality,’ just as captivating as its spellbinding history or its beautiful and varied landscapes, from beaches to lemon groves, pine forests to volcanoes. . . . The most amiable and freewheeling of guides, Norwich will always find time for the amusing anecdote.”The Sunday Times

“Utterly engrossing . . . written with passion about the art and architecture of this magical island, filled with gossipy tidbits and sweeping historical theories.”The Daily Beast
 
“Dazzling . . . Norwich is an elegantly graceful and entertaining storyteller.”Richmond Times-Dispatch
 
“Charming . . . richly nuanced history relayed with enormous fondness.”Kirkus Reviews
 
“A brisk and always-lively tour.”Open Letters Monthly 

“Norwich is deeply in love with Sicily. [His] boundless affection has inspired a determined effort to understand its painful past. The result is impressionistic, as love often is.”The Times

“Sicily’s political history is full of so much turbulence it’s sometimes hard to keep track of the battles, murders and successions, but Norwich sketches personalities vividly: Emma Hamilton, for example, a glamorous former courtesan whose celebrated affair with Nelson began in Sicily; or Salvatore Giuliano, ‘Sicily’s most notorious but . . . best-loved bandit.’ Norwich calls this book his ‘valediction’ to Sicily: he does the island and the reader a generous service in providing such an amiable introduction.”The Sunday Telegraph
 
“Norwich tells [Sicily’s] long, sad but fascinating story with sympathy and brio.”Literary Review



Product Details
ISBN: 9780812995176
ISBN-10: 0812995171
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: July 21st, 2015
Pages: 400
Language: English