Imagine a Forsyte Saga condensed and shanghaied to pre-lsrael Jerusalem, with Arabs and Jews mingling, British Mandate authorities interfering, and the Haganah staying very underground indeed. For Forsyte, substitute Amarillo--a Sephardic clan headed by a malodorous, bed-ridden grandmother who cheats her granddaughters at rummy and a philosopher-grandfather who's an informer for the British. But the real family strength-and the hub of the saga--rests with granddaughter Sara, fatherless (incorrigible Zaki ran off with a ""countess"") and worse than motherless, since jittery mother Gracia does nothing but remind her that she's kinky-haired and too big. Maybe so, but Sara's also honest, clever, and cheeky, so she sleeps around, builds tirelessly on her gifts for nursing and teaching, and marries cousin Elias, who pushes government papers and reluctantly edges into the Haganah. Meanwhile, the family connections grow, roping in a raft of plausibly odd characters--a Schubert-loving hospital chief with no use for God (""there's a sadist up there""), an Arab who wants to croon under the name of Steve Harold, and a British officer who becomes a classical music disc jockey. And Jerusalem grows too, from town to city in 30 years. Despite a truly peculiar translation (""roundaboutly""?) and prose that veers from grand to artsy to flat, City of Many Days is an ingratiating, small surprise--lean, quirky, and knowing enough to leave political history lurking in the background.