O Jerusalem (1999)

o_jerusalem After about an hour of this the wind came up. An already cold night turned bitter, with the added pleasure of sand driven into our faces. I took off my spectacles, which were in danger of being sand-blasted into opacity if not actually blown off my nose, wrapped my abayya more firmly around my body, and followed the dim form ahead of me.

It then commenced to rain. Ali and Mahmoud appeared, waiting for us to catch them up so they could help control the mules. Soon the drops were pelting down; lightning and thunder moved in on us until the storm was directly over our heads as we pressed on, clinging to the halters of the skittish animals for fear our tents and pans would gallop off into the night. The track, never a road, turned slick, and then sticky, until even those of us who had four feet were having a hard time of it.

When the hail began I stopped dead. “Damn it all!” I shouted at full voice, necessary against the rush of wind and the fast-increasing crescendo of pings of the hailstones on the big, convex iron saj. “Why is it so almighty important that we reach Beersheva tonight?”

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What they say

Once again King’s considerable talent makes history virtually leap off the page. With the feminist heroine chronicling events and the cerebral detective stirring the pot, readers can’t lose. (Booklist)

The sense of place is so real, the reader can feel the sting of the sandstorm, feel the sun’s scorching rays, shiver in the chill of the desert night and thrill at the sight of the golden city of Jerusalem. (Historical Novel Society)

This is one of the great novels about Palestine, realistic and subtle in its portrayal of the land, its inhabitants and languages. (Jerusalem Post)


Read Laurie’s thoughts about writing O Jerusalem on her blog, Mutterings.

For a timeline and various links, go to Mary Russell’s World

For a virtual tour of (modern) Jerusalem and particularly the place where Holmes and Russell met their orange-eating young guide

For a bibliography and reader’s guide, click here.

Film of Allenby’s entrance to Jerusalem, 1917 (thanks to Deborah Keep)


The Mar Sabas monastery (click picture to visit gallery)