Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre are the deadly duo of historians you have to watch out for, the Carlin and Hicks of chronicling, as it were. They’ve covered the birth of Israel, the independence of India, the (almost) burning of Paris and several other momentous events in the twentieth century. O Jerusalem! covers the birth of Israel in 1947-48. We witness the plight of refugees from the Holocaust, Golda Meir’s fundraising trip to the States, Ben-Gurion’s relief at Einstein’s declining the Presidency of Israel and several other epochal events during the nascent years of Israel.
The prose in this book, and their other works too, is mildly Dickensian in scope, with several disparate threads of narrative weaving together concurrently, but not quite touching. At least not in the way one imagines threads touching in a work of fiction, with Character A ending up being the long-lost benefactor of Character B from the colonies and so on. Their style is not dry, with enough detail provided to whet your appetite and spark an interest in the all-too-human protagonists. One might argue that a book devoted to describing the birth of Israel is not unbiased, but the authors don’t take any sides in this volatile conflict, preferring to stick to the facts they’ve gleaned from interviewing thousands of people over a decade of research.
Once you read a historical book of this calibre, it leaves a indelible mark on you. The characters of Vivian Herzog, Glubb Pasha, Abdul Khader, Haj Amin, Ben-Gurion and David Shaltiel loom large in my mind, and to this day when I see their names in print, I think of this book. This is superlative documenting and chronicling, perhaps some of the best in the world. Also, if you read this tome and like it, The Haj by Leon Uris might loosely be considered a fictional sibling of this work, mostly viewed from the Palestinian side of the conflict.