RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe brilliance of his own raid on Rome lies in the principle of selectivity he has brought to it—what is done to Rome matters as much as what Rome does to the world—and the depth of his research (his informative source notes cover 18 pages). He is giving us a tour, but he is also making a case about the interpenetration of the cultures that mixed as the sackings unfolded ... There is a lot of church history, as there must be, which he handles quite well, and a fair number of plagues, floods and earthquakes to go with the violence and plunder of the sackings themselves. Reading Kneale’s book, you are sometimes left to wonder how anything in Rome has been left standing at all ... He quotes an American nun describing the arrival of a jeep with four American soldiers in it: \'The thing looked so solitary, yet so significant in the cool stillness of the dawn. I had it all to myself for a few seconds.\' This kind of sensitivity to language is unusual in a book intended for a popular audience. Whether they are drawn from legendary ancient historians or unsung modern eyewitnesses, moments like this one are what put Kneale one step ahead of most other Roman chroniclers.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewThere is something a little dutiful about this tour, but Marshall offers us a surprising fact or six along the way ... Marshall oscillates between telling the story of the way flags unite us and the way they divide us. He is acutely aware that they often do both at the same time, and it is this tension that brings out his most illuminating writing ... Marshall is especially good on how flags encode the history of the violence that brought the nations they represent into being and how quickly they can become emblems of racial and ethnic bigotry ... The writing in books like this is often rushed and cramped on the one hand and glib and expansive on the other, and Marshall does not transcend the genre. The supposedly clever bits can be particularly annoying ... Readers looking for an understanding of how silk waving from a stick can come to mean everything will be disappointed, but they will not leave empty-handed either.