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Defending the City of God: A Medieval Queen,…

Defending the City of God: A Medieval Queen, the First Crusades, and the…

by Sharan Newman

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A great new angle on medieval history. The plot of this book shows the complexities and difficulties of being a European living in Jerusalem during the Crusades. The cultural and political environment was in a constant state of change as territories and cities changes hands. Sometimes a Christian would ally with a Muslim against a Christian neighbor. Queen Melisende was the first hereditary queen of Jerusalem and she was able to balance her unique social environment because she was truly born and raised in the Middle East. ( )
  kkunker | Dec 8, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Newman has written a fascinating book about medieval history, the crusades, religion, royalty. I loved this look at the Middle East. I had no idea how complex the society was. I always kind of pictured it as Muslim, Jew, Christian. But that is only where it starts. And in the middle of it all was Queen Melisende, hereditary ruler of Jerusalem, born of mixed heritage, eyewitness to the commerce and occasional violence that defined the age. Great read. ( )
  cmbohn | Sep 5, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I am happy that this author attempts to give women the credit they deserve in the early formation of Christianity.
Recommend reading for any student of history, particularly Christian history. ( )
  Willie3 | Sep 3, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I enjoyed this book, though not as much as I expected. Initially, I looked forward to reading it because I I knew nothing about Melisende -- indeed, had never heard of her -- before reading this book. I have read many books, both fiction and nonfiction, on the royal families of England and France through the centuries, so it was interesting to see where the life of Melisende (or contemporaries of hers) intersected with other stories of the time that I do know -- such as Louis & Eleanor of France arriving with the Crusades. I was also intrigued to realize the connection between Melisende's husband, Fulk, and the founding of England's Plantagenet ruling family. I had just a shred of a memory that I might have read as sentence or two somewhere about Geoffrey Plantagenet's father going to Jerusalem, but it obviously had never made much of an impression on me. (I really do wish I had known of Melisende many years ago when I had the opportunity to visit Israel, and specifically, Jerusalem, as I might have been able to connect some of the sites with her history during our travels in the country.) After all that, however, I must admit the enjoyment did not live up to my anticipation. Some of the reviews printed on the jacket referred to the "suspense" and "full account" of this medieval queen, and the summary promises to "weave together the political intrigues and dynastic battles that transformed the Near East." I don't really feel that the book delivered on any of those claims, sadly. There was certainly plenty of mention of battles and political conniving, but Melisende rarely figured into any of it (at least in the way it was presented by the author), unless it came to mention of her name on a charter that was involved. I never felt the suspense, and the account felt far less than "full" in accounting for her life. That said, I must give the author credit for her extensive footnotes and bibliography. It is not for lack of study that the book felt that it did not live up to my expectations.

I can usually keep up with the numerous players and locations within a history without it affecting the pace of my progress through the story, but I had trouble reading straight through this book. I normally would have finished a book of this length in a day or two, but I put it down many times, came back and reread portions before moving ahead again, only to put it down somewhat frustrated again. There were SO many unfamiliar names in this book, which is not unexpected given the region of the world in which it takes place. However, in addition to not knowing how to pronounce many of the names, there were many cases of strange names cropping up and then disappearing for many pages before they reentered the story -- and the same name was often repeated through different generations of a family, so I really struggled to keep everyone straight. It would have been nice to have a map, as well, to give a visual grounding for all the cities that were mentioned. (Since some of them no longer exist, a modern map is not much help.) And most of all, I felt that there was not nearly as much of Melisende's story as the summary led me to hope. I understand very well that there are many documents which did not survive, and that there was a different view of women in ruling positions during her lifetime, such that many things we would hope to have known just were not deemed important enough to record. I believe I have learned something from reading this book, but I must preface that admission by saying that I feel there was much more speculation of what "might have happened" in numerous instances than there was factual evidence of the real Melisende. In that light, I find it hard to view this as a biography at all, and almost not even worthy to be considered a non-fiction work. I would love to know more about her, so perhaps this book is a best viewed as a good springboard for helping you to determine the level of your interest, as continuing the quest for more knowledge surely will involve more than a quick trip to the local library. ( )
  tarheel96 | Aug 31, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Defending The City of God adds much to my knowledge of Near East History as well as the Crusades. To serious students of such material this book is a must. Now, I don't know if I was misled by the marketing promo or if it was just me, but this did not meet my expectations. The idea that this story is told through the life of the Queen of Jerusalem, Melisende, is only partially true. Advertised as a story of her life, it falls short. As you complete the book there is much you don't know about her. So I just can't wrap myself around the whole thing. This is history of Jerusalem and the Crusades. It does not in anyway portray 'the Queen of Jerusalem" in such a powerful position say as Cleopatra. Some where the lines got blurred. It is not a competent biography. Neither does her story "weave together the political intrigues and dynastic battles that transformed the Near East", as promised.

But don't get hung up on this, as did I. If you hunger for more serious information on the Near East and the Crusades this my prove to help satisfy your appetite. Just don't read the hype. ( )
  Travis1259 | Aug 15, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 113727865X, Hardcover)

Jerusalem sits at the crossroads of three continents and has been continuously invaded for millennia. Yet, in the middle of one of the region’s most violent eras, the Crusades, an amazing multicultural  world was forming. Templar knights, Muslim  peasants, Turkish caliphs, Jewish merchants, and the native Christians, along with the children of the first crusaders, blended cultures while struggling to survive in a land constantly at war. Defending the City of God explores this fascinating and forgotten world, and how a group of sisters, daughters  of the King of Jerusalem, whose  supporters included Grand Masters of the Templars and Armenian  clerics, held together the fragile treaties, understandings, and marriages that allowed for relative peace among the many different factions. As the crusaders fought to maintain their conquests, these relationships quickly unraveled, and the religious and cultural diversity was lost as hardline factions took over. Weaving together the political intrigues and dynastic battles that transformed the Near East with an evocative portrait of medieval Jerusalem, this is an astonishing look at a forgotten side of the first Crusades.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:32 -0400)

"A fresh and highly accessible history of the Holy Lands during the Middle Ages, revealing a rich and diverse culture and the fight to save Jerusalem from the Crusaders"--

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