I was going to write a review - but basically I agree completely with the promotional blurb on her site, quoted below.
Highly recommended. I read it in 3 sittings - it was really page turning stuff, very accessible and easy language (historical accounts can be quite dry, so it is great to come across those who can make history come to life - William Dalrymple is another author who does this, but I found Hazelton's book easier to digest than Dalrymple - who I also highly recommend).
It brought to life the events after the death of the Prophet, and it is by far the best and most accessible book I've read on the subject. I learnt quite a few things. Her analysis near the end of the book of how the events of Karbala resonate in the 20th and 21st centuries is really insightful and eye-opening - relating it to the Iranian revolution and what is happening in Iraq. I am tempted to serialize this bit, as it is not long, but I think it best if people support excellent authors like Hazelton and read the whole book to do it justice.
Narrative history at its most compelling, After the Prophet tells the tragic story at the heart of the ongoing rivalry between Shia and Sunni -- an unforgettable epic as alive today as when it first happened.
Grippingly written and deeply moving, this is the book that allows Western readers to grasp the scope and power of the Shia-Sunni split as never before.
Finalist for the 2010 PEN-USA non-fiction award
"Thrilling in its depiction of long-ago events... Passionately and scrupulously done."
-- The Wall Street Journal
"A profound story masterfully told... An exceptional book."
-- Publishers Weekly, starred and boxed review
"A new masterpiece... Thrillingly and intelligently distills one of the most consequential trains of events in all history."
-- Booklist, starred review
"A remarkable telling of the story of Islam -- a tale of power, intrigue, rivalry, jealousy, assassination, manipulation, greed and faith... but above all a very human story, in a wonderful novelistic style."
-- Hooman Majd, author of The Ayatollah Begs to Differ
"Lesley Hazleton vividly recreates the personal rivalries and resentment that led to Islam's great schism in the wake of Muhammad's death, and makes one understand how truly contemporary they are with our own time... A terrific and necessary book."
-- Jonathan Raban, author of My Holy War and Surveillance
"The general Western reader will come away from this book with a newfound respect for the depth and power of the early schism in Islam."
-- Professor Wilferd Madelung, Oxford University, author of The Succession to Muhammad
"After reading this gripping book, no one will be able to plead ignorance about why the split between Sunni and Shia happened and what it all means."
-- Alan Wolfe, Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life
"A fine, highly readable history of Islam"
-- Harvey Cox, Professor of Divinity, Harvard University
(She makes the point that the earliest histories do contain multiple and sometimes conflicting accounts - as they are from effectively narratives of people who report different things - so sometimes one has to choose which of the versions to report.. and I think she does an excellent job with the narrative. Some of the nuances are slightly different from what I've read elsewhere - but these are minor - eg. whether Maryam the Copt was a concubine or a wife of the Prophet.)