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People of the Book

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From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of March, the journey of a rare illuminated manuscript through centuries of exile and war In 1996, Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, is offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, which has been rescued from Serb shelling during the Bosnian war. Priceless and beautiful, the book i From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of March, the journey of a rare illuminated manuscript through centuries of exile and war In 1996, Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, is offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, which has been rescued from Serb shelling during the Bosnian war. Priceless and beautiful, the book is one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with images. When Hanna, a caustic loner with a passion for her work, discovers a series of tiny artifacts in its ancient binding—an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair—she begins to unlock the book’s mysteries. The reader is ushered into an exquisitely detailed and atmospheric past, tracing the book’s journey from its salvation back to its creation. In Bosnia during World War II, a Muslim risks his life to protect it from the Nazis. In the hedonistic salons of fin-de-siècle Vienna, the book becomes a pawn in the struggle against the city’s rising anti-Semitism. In inquisition-era Venice, a Catholic priest saves it from burning. In Barcelona in 1492, the scribe who wrote the text sees his family destroyed by the agonies of enforced exile. And in Seville in 1480, the reason for the Haggadah’s extraordinary illuminations is finally disclosed. Hanna’s investigation unexpectedly plunges her into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics. Her experiences will test her belief in herself and the man she has come to love. Inspired by a true story, People of the Book is at once a novel of sweeping historical grandeur and intimate emotional intensity, an ambitious, electrifying work by an acclaimed and beloved author.


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From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of March, the journey of a rare illuminated manuscript through centuries of exile and war In 1996, Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, is offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, which has been rescued from Serb shelling during the Bosnian war. Priceless and beautiful, the book i From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of March, the journey of a rare illuminated manuscript through centuries of exile and war In 1996, Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, is offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, which has been rescued from Serb shelling during the Bosnian war. Priceless and beautiful, the book is one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with images. When Hanna, a caustic loner with a passion for her work, discovers a series of tiny artifacts in its ancient binding—an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair—she begins to unlock the book’s mysteries. The reader is ushered into an exquisitely detailed and atmospheric past, tracing the book’s journey from its salvation back to its creation. In Bosnia during World War II, a Muslim risks his life to protect it from the Nazis. In the hedonistic salons of fin-de-siècle Vienna, the book becomes a pawn in the struggle against the city’s rising anti-Semitism. In inquisition-era Venice, a Catholic priest saves it from burning. In Barcelona in 1492, the scribe who wrote the text sees his family destroyed by the agonies of enforced exile. And in Seville in 1480, the reason for the Haggadah’s extraordinary illuminations is finally disclosed. Hanna’s investigation unexpectedly plunges her into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics. Her experiences will test her belief in herself and the man she has come to love. Inspired by a true story, People of the Book is at once a novel of sweeping historical grandeur and intimate emotional intensity, an ambitious, electrifying work by an acclaimed and beloved author.

30 review for People of the Book

  1. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    A Review of People of the Book (or, Why I Hate the Kindle) Brooks's novel is a fictionalized account of the real Sarajevo Haggadah, a Jewish religious text noteworthy for its inclusion of an illuminated manuscript and for its survival through turmoil and the hostility towards Jews that has erupted time and again over the centuries in Europe and Eastern Europe. The novel is told from the perspective of Hanna Heath, an expert in book restoration, who is called in to restore the text for display. Wh A Review of People of the Book (or, Why I Hate the Kindle) Brooks's novel is a fictionalized account of the real Sarajevo Haggadah, a Jewish religious text noteworthy for its inclusion of an illuminated manuscript and for its survival through turmoil and the hostility towards Jews that has erupted time and again over the centuries in Europe and Eastern Europe. The novel is told from the perspective of Hanna Heath, an expert in book restoration, who is called in to restore the text for display. While working on the book, Hanna finds a few curiosities that she keeps and carefully labels: a butterfly wing, a small sample of some wine stained pages, salt crystals, a white hair, and the notation of some missing decorative clasps. As Hanna investigates each of these items and their origins to gain insight into the Haggadah's past, the reader is presented with the story of each noteworthy item in its own stand alone chapter (stories that Hanna herself can never learn as the evidence she finds only provides her with a basis for conjecture and hypothesis). Each story is unique and not necessarily connected to the others. While the novel has been compared to The Da Vinci Code, it's a far cry from Robert Langdon's action-adventure chase through Europe in pursuit of an explosive secret that might change religion as we know it. Instead, the pacing is slower--the pacing of a scholar motivated by the desire to simply know, even if definitive answers aren't available. And, though the novel explores the nature of Jewish/Muslim/Christian relationships throughout the ages, it doesn't seek to lecture about morality or about what one should (or should not) believe. Despite enjoying it, I will admit that People of the Book has some flaws. The story of Hanna Heath and her strained relationship with her ultra-feminist, professional mother is cliched and not given enough room to become a realistic exploration of a such a complicated relationship. In addition, a few plot points are contrived, but I can forgive that simply because the book appealed to the book lover in me, which is a nice segue way into . . . WHY I HATE THE KINDLE (and all other eReader devices). First off, don't lecture me about how this is the future and I need to embrace it. If you own a Kindle, fine. Enjoy. I'm not suggesting that the privilege be taken away from you. However, I'll not be tempted by the siren song of fashionable technology. I love books. I love the way they feel. I like physically seeing the progress I've made as I turn page after page. I love the cover art. I love how books look on a shelf (in home decorating magazines, I delight in trying to identify the books on the shelves of well-appointed dens and studies). I like to select which books are going on vacation with me, agonizing over which ones might suit my mood. And, when I see someone reading a book, I will often become a creepy Peeping Tom of sorts as I try to catch a glimpse of the book cover so I can see what they're reading. I judge you by what book you're reading--if you're reading Neil Gaiman, I want to know you; conversely, if you're reading Twilight, I may be silently hoping that you get to join the undead (but in a more permanent dead sort of way). So much of that is lost with an eReader. And, after reading People of the Book, I'm aware of how much history can be lost. Not just the tiny fragments that get wedged into the bindings and between the pages, but the history of the people who owned and cherished the book. A world where physical books become obsolete and everyone has an entire library on one portable reading device is also a frightening possibility. How easy then for the next dictator to destroy our beloved texts. Smash one eReader and hundreds, thousands of books are permanently lost--far more efficient than book burnings. It's the impermanence of it all that scares me. Not only that, I think that obsession with books, recognizing and identifying with others because you notice the Christopher Moore font on the book cover or the tell-tell cover art of a Tim O'Brien paperback, helps create a reading community that we're connected to and a part of. How many chance encounters, spontaneous conversations, or just the simple nod of respect to complete strangers with whom we briefly feel connected when we realize we're reading the same author on the same bus--how many of those moments are lost when we're all carrying around the same reading device that indicates no individuality or reading preference to those around us? Will we feel as open to asking a complete stranger, "What are you reading?" Obviously, not all books are as important as the Haggadah, but I like to think that we all cherish our own quaint libraries and someday perhaps they will tell the world about who we were. Cross posted at This Insignificant Cinder

  2. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

    This is an awful book. I expected great things from Brooks - March is a book I treasure - but this novel is a third-rate Da Vinci code, written with about the same amount of skill. The premise is captivating - a 500-year-old haggadah is found in Sarajevo in 1996, and the novel sets out to explore the book's journey across Europe in those intervening years. Along the way, the haggadah acts as an entry point into the tumult, crisis, and unspeakable violence experienced by Jewish communities across E This is an awful book. I expected great things from Brooks - March is a book I treasure - but this novel is a third-rate Da Vinci code, written with about the same amount of skill. The premise is captivating - a 500-year-old haggadah is found in Sarajevo in 1996, and the novel sets out to explore the book's journey across Europe in those intervening years. Along the way, the haggadah acts as an entry point into the tumult, crisis, and unspeakable violence experienced by Jewish communities across Europe. Yet the novel does not live up to the premise. The focus is not upon the haggadah or the people who have handled it between 1480 and 1996, but rather upon the Australian conservator called in to restore it in Sarajevo. The details of where the haggadah has been are important because Hanna, the conservator, is writing an essay about its journey, and she'll gain academic and professional prestige from doing so. Hello, cultural appropriation! For example: "why had an illuminator working in Spain, for a Jewish client, in the manner of a European Christian, have used an Iranian paintbrush? Clarissa's identification of this anomaly had been great for my essay. It had given me an excuse to riff on the way knowledge had traveled amazing distances during the Conveivencia, over well-established routes linking the artists and intellectuals of Spain with their counterparts in Baghdad, Cairo, and Isphahan." (321) (We are actually supposed to clap our hands with glee on Hanna's behalf at that point, I think.) Once Hanna's expertise about the haggadah is questioned, she gives up her work as a conservator of old, European and Middle Eastern texts, and instead starts saving Australian Aboriginal art from being destroyed by mining companies. She has an assistant - he's Aboriginal, but it's Hanna who we're supposed to identify and sympathize with, feeling pleased that she's a white superwoman, saving people from themselves. There are other truly problematic issues of race in the text. The first character of color we encounter is a Rasta cab driver who smokes ganja and who won't drop her at Scotland Yard in case he gets caught for using drugs. We meet a man - Raz - who is part African-American and part Hawaiian, and whom the protagonist observes "was one of those vanguard beings of indeterminate ethnicity, the magnificent mutts I hope we are all destined to become given another millennium of intermixing." (141). Yep, that's right, she just called him a mongrel. The depictions of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian faith are so broad-brushed i don't know what to think - it's like a child's paint-by-numbers for major world religions. And of course, in the tradition of Dan Brown, it's a love story. Within a few pages of beginning the book Hanna's sleeping with the Muslim curator of Sarajevo's major museum, and by the end she's overcome her aversion to the idea of a long-term relationship and is ready to be with him. Whoop-dee-doo. In conclusion: UGH.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Brina

    A tip from one of my daughter's teachers lead me to the works of Geraldine Brooks, a two time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for literature. Being the non-fiction connoisseur that I am, I first devoured her memoir Foreign Correspondence. Deciding not to limit myself to only one of her books, I chose People of the Book, her fictionalized history of the Sarajevo Haggadah. Hanna Heath is a Sydney book conservator who has been chosen by the Sarajevo National Museum to rebind the city's famous Hagga A tip from one of my daughter's teachers lead me to the works of Geraldine Brooks, a two time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for literature. Being the non-fiction connoisseur that I am, I first devoured her memoir Foreign Correspondence. Deciding not to limit myself to only one of her books, I chose People of the Book, her fictionalized history of the Sarajevo Haggadah. Hanna Heath is a Sydney book conservator who has been chosen by the Sarajevo National Museum to rebind the city's famous Haggadah in anticipation of the museum's reopening. Spurred on by her research, Heath's travels take her to Harvard, London, Vienna, and back to Sarajevo later on in order to pinpoint the codex's travels. If the book only centered on Heath's quest in present day, it would still merit a five-star book of intrigue. How fortunate that this is not the case. Brooks intersperses Heath's quest to discover the haggadah's and her own history with chapters on each of the haggadah's stops over the last 500 years. As Heath discovers artifacts while researching, Brooks takes us back in time to World II Sarajevo, Vienna, Florence, and pre-inquisition Spain. The pages are filled with vivid language each describing an epoch of the haggadah's illustrious history. Of course being fiction, Brooks ties up both Hanna's and the haggadah's loose ends with a relative happy ending. I grew more and more mesmerized with the books twists and turns, and the pages read quickly in the book's second half. Where would Heath's quest lead next? Read on and discover the haggadah's path through history. As someone who rarely reads fiction, I am delighted with my choice of both book and author as the one to lead me back to the world of storytelling. Brooks' writing is first rate and I look forward to reading many more of her novels. I would highly recommend this book to anyone in search of a quality historical fiction novel.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lyn

    An exceptional novel about a rare book conservator from Australia who researches the Sarajevo Haggadda, an ancient Jewish prayer book. Brooks uses the protagonist's research to tell the story of the book backwards from WWII to 1600s Venice to Moorish Spain. The modern conservators narrative binds the vignettes together. A none too subtle vehicle to highlight the interwoven histories of Christians, Jews and Muslims - the People of the Book - the novel is also an allegory about learning itself and An exceptional novel about a rare book conservator from Australia who researches the Sarajevo Haggadda, an ancient Jewish prayer book. Brooks uses the protagonist's research to tell the story of the book backwards from WWII to 1600s Venice to Moorish Spain. The modern conservators narrative binds the vignettes together. A none too subtle vehicle to highlight the interwoven histories of Christians, Jews and Muslims - the People of the Book - the novel is also an allegory about learning itself and people's struggles to keep the flame of wisdom alight. Original, well researched and provocative, a reader will enjoy the textured characterizations and the personality brimming in each historical sketch.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Greendale

    A Hebrew manuscript created in fifteenth-century Spain has been saved from the ruins of a bombed library. Hanna Heath, who specializes in the conservation of medieval documents, is hired to repair and preserve the ancient manuscript. Tiny artifacts found inside the manuscript lead Hanna on a quest to discover how the rare manuscript was created and who risked everything to ensure its safety for five hundred years. The author capitalizes on Hanna's passion for her profession. Her work on the manu A Hebrew manuscript created in fifteenth-century Spain has been saved from the ruins of a bombed library. Hanna Heath, who specializes in the conservation of medieval documents, is hired to repair and preserve the ancient manuscript. Tiny artifacts found inside the manuscript lead Hanna on a quest to discover how the rare manuscript was created and who risked everything to ensure its safety for five hundred years. The author capitalizes on Hanna's passion for her profession. Her work on the manuscript is described with such alluring detail that the reader cannot help but experience the same hushed reverence as she does. When Hanna looks at the manuscript, she sees more than paper and ink. She sees the story behind the book's creation; she senses the hands of every person who made it, held it, cherished it. What others see as blemishes or trash - a red stain, a salt crystal, a white hair lost in the folds of the binding - Hanna sees as clues to the people of the book. Hanna's story alone is strong enough to carry the reader through a captivating journey, but what makes this book so beguiling is the integration of multiple stories from various other characters spanning from 1480 to 2002. All of the varied narratives are masterfully woven together for optimal plot pacing. In a way, the book reads like a collection of short stories, but a common thread - the ancient manuscript - ties everything together into one beautiful tapestry. While People of the Book doesn't offer the same richness of prose as the author's other novels, there are moments where dazzling language emerges. Often this language is employed to give an intimate, artful description of the manuscript itself, such that People of the Book sometimes feels like a love letter to the act of slowly crafting a masterpiece: Blue: intense as a midsummer sky, obtained from grinding precious lapis lazuli carried by camel caravan all the way from the mountains of Afghanistan. White: pure, creamy, opaque. [. . . ] There was yellow made of saffron. That beautiful autumnal flower, Crocus sativus Linnaeous, each with just three tiny precious sigmas, had been a prized luxury then and remained one, still. Other times, the writing is vivid and immediate: [He] continued speaking quietly, in short, undramatic sentences. No light. A fractured pipe. Rising water. Shells hitting the walls. It was left for me to fill in the blanks. I'd been in enough museum basements to imagine how it was; how every shell burst that shook the building must have sent a rain of plaster falling over the precious things, and over him, too, into his eyes as he crouched in the dark, hands shaking, striking match after match to see what he was doing. Fundamental themes woven throughout the book are as provocative and meaningful today as they were five hundred years ago: "I have spent many nights, lying awake here in this room, thinking that the [manuscript] came to Sarajevo for a reason. It was here to test us, to see if there were people who could see that what unites us was more than what divided us. That to be a human being matters more than to be a Jew or a Muslim, Catholic or Orthodox." With rich character narratives and a deep veneration for artifacts, People of the Book sweeps readers away on a grand, emotional adventure that crosses the globe and spans centuries.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Leanna

    I try to avoid all things popular (e.g., I’ve never seen Star Wars or Titanic) because I know, after all the hype, I can only be disappointed. When it comes to books, though, I feel obligated to read what’s popular so I can participate somewhat intelligently in the conversation. That being said, although I hoped Geraldine Brook’s People of the Book would live up to the buzz, I wasn’t too surprised when it did not. The book is good, but it is not call-up-all-my-friends-(or readers)-and-recommend-i I try to avoid all things popular (e.g., I’ve never seen Star Wars or Titanic) because I know, after all the hype, I can only be disappointed. When it comes to books, though, I feel obligated to read what’s popular so I can participate somewhat intelligently in the conversation. That being said, although I hoped Geraldine Brook’s People of the Book would live up to the buzz, I wasn’t too surprised when it did not. The book is good, but it is not call-up-all-my-friends-(or readers)-and-recommend-it good. People has been compared to The Da Vinci Code, but I find that comparison erroneous. Although better written than Da Vinci (but, come on, a phonebook is better written than Da Vinci), People lacks the plot, mystery, and pizzazz that made Da Vinci a blockbuster. Instead, People is much more reminiscent of Susan Vreeland’s Girl in Hyacinth Blue . Hyacinth follows the provenance of a Vermeer painting. People follows the provenance of the Sarajevo Haggadah. As such, the book is divided into several sections. Five sections follow the Haggadah back in history—to Bosnia, to Austria-Hungary, to Italy, to Spain. As the title suggests, it is not the book that is interesting so much as what happens in the lives of those people attached to it. These sections are the strongest and most interesting in the book. However, for some reason I cannot fathom, some parts are written in first person and some in third. This twist seems to serve little purpose other than to distract and annoy the reader. The book’s greatest weakness is the contemporary storyline that cushions each section. Hanna Heath is a book conservator hired to work on the Haggadah. She finds clues in the book—an insect, a stain, a hair—that reveal its history. Unfortunately, I found Hanna’s story to be downright irritating. Hanna is 30 years old, has a double bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and a PhD. She has apprenticed around the globe, is well published and highly regarded in her field. Perhaps I am just jealous, since Hanna and I share the same age and similar academic credentials (okay, hers are much better than mine), but Hanna’s experience and success is simply not plausible for someone so young. Similarly, everyone Hanna meets—from Vienna’s chief archivist to Sarajevo’s head museum librarian—is 30 or under. Really? How did Hanna and her cohorts pack in so much and become so successful in so few years? I could continue my nitpickiness (Ozren, the head librarian, speaks flawless English but stumbles over the word “hoof”?), but the point is that Hanna is so unbelievable she becomes a rather unsympathetic character. I was far more interested in what happens when she is out of the picture. People of the Book is an okay read, but I see no need to trample your friends and neighbors to secure a copy. Read it if you have the time and inclination. If not . . .

  7. 5 out of 5

    Heidi The Hippie Reader

    The story of an extraordinary book and the people who surround it. And I did not enjoy it. My reaction to this one was a huge surprise. I adored Geraldine Brook's Year of Wonders and I thought this would be an easy hit for me. I think the problem is fairly simple- never connected with the main character. I loved Anna from Year of Wonders. I couldn't stand Hanna. The small details of her work that she found so absorbing, I didn't enjoy. I didn't like how she treated people sometimes. I thought she see The story of an extraordinary book and the people who surround it. And I did not enjoy it. My reaction to this one was a huge surprise. I adored Geraldine Brook's Year of Wonders and I thought this would be an easy hit for me. I think the problem is fairly simple- never connected with the main character. I loved Anna from Year of Wonders. I couldn't stand Hanna. The small details of her work that she found so absorbing, I didn't enjoy. I didn't like how she treated people sometimes. I thought she seemed rather arrogant. I also didn't like how the timelines bounced around from character to character. I was listening to People of the Book as an audiobook. Without being able to look back and check, I found myself getting confused when I stopped in the middle of a passage and picked it up again after a work day. Brook's writing is just fine. Again, I can't believe I didn't like this. Highly recommend Year of Wonders. I give this a solid pass.

  8. 5 out of 5

    PattyMacDotComma

    5★ A new favourite! I love it when old stories sound right for their time, and Geraldine Brooksdoes that so well. This novel was inspired by the discovery of the real Sarajevo Haggadah, a book more than 700 years old, so Brooks had a lot of ground to cover and a lot of voices to invent. Her central character (Hanna Heath, a rare book expert) says about herself: “By linking research and imagination, sometimes I can think myself into the heads of the people who made the book. I can figure out who 5★ A new favourite! I love it when old stories sound right for their time, and Geraldine Brooksdoes that so well. This novel was inspired by the discovery of the real Sarajevo Haggadah, a book more than 700 years old, so Brooks had a lot of ground to cover and a lot of voices to invent. Her central character (Hanna Heath, a rare book expert) says about herself: “By linking research and imagination, sometimes I can think myself into the heads of the people who made the book. I can figure out who they were, or how they worked. That’s how I add my few grains to the sandbox of human knowledge. It’s what I love best about what I do.” That describes exactly what I enjoy about what Brooks does--imagines plausible, informative, entertaining scenarios. Who might have penned the text of the haggadah (the Jewish ritual which is read during the Passover Seder meal)? Who might have painted the illustrations? Who is the black woman in a painting, and why is she there? Who managed to save this Jewish treasure from the Spanish Inquisition, the Nazis, and the numerous attempts to eradicate all traces of Jewish culture? Hanna says about the paper she plans to write: “I wanted this one to be different. I wanted to give a sense of the people of the book, the different hands that had made it, used it, protected it. I wanted it to be a gripping narrative, even suspenseful.” This novel is all of those things. We hold our breath as this small book changes hands on its precarious journey through the centuries. Sometimes it’s a Muslim, sometimes a Christian, sometimes a Polish orphan fleeing Nazis in the winter snow. All are in desperately dangerous situations. This has everything--childbirth, torture, intrigue, power, war, greed, compassion--and Hanna’s own story as well. In 1996, Dr Hanna Heath (PhD doctor), an expert Australian conservator of rare books, is invited to Sarajevo to inspect a recently discovered haggadah [Brooks does not capitalise it, incidentally]. It just turned up in the museum, and the unusual illustrations have roused particular interest, as images were generally forbidden in Jewish tradition. Hanna spots the tiniest clues, hoping to be “lucky enough to find any debris in the binding—it’s amazing what you can learn about a book by studying the chemistry of a bread crumb.” Rather than a crumb, she finds a hair and some stains and some missing clasps. Hanna’s methods are as fascinating as the results of her investigation. And there is humour, too. “The art world in England is an absolute magnet for the second sons of threadbare lords, or women named Annabelle Something-hyphen-Something who dress in black leggings and burnt orange cashmeres and smell faintly of wet Labrador. I always find myself lapsing into Paleolithic Strine when I’m around them, using words I’d never dream of using in real life, like ‘cobber’ and ‘bonza’. " Meanwhile, her mother, not only a ‘real’ doctor, but a neurosurgeon (“I don’t just save lives, Hanna. I save the very thing that makes us human” ) is dismissive of Hanna’s cultural conservation expertise. She is a driven, single-minded woman, whose child was a puzzling nuisance. Hanna stands up to mum and uncovers her own history—where she came from and how—and she finds a whole new world of support and respect. But professionally, the rug is pulled out from under her when her expertise about the Sarajevo Haggadah is questioned, so she retreats back home to explore the world’s oldest culture instead. She’s embarrassed to discover how ignorant she (and everyone else) is. “So I set myself a crash course and became a pioneer in a new field: desperation conservation.” Great term, and we need more of it. Desperation Conservation. She tries to put the haggadah story behind her and sets out to catalogue and preserve Aboriginal rock art in situ (diverting dripping water away from it, that sort of thing), working as fast as possible in the tropical heat in Arnhem Land, with little communication and limited time before The Wet turns the dirt tracks to impassable mud. So little is known, so little is protected. When she’s called to the Foreign Affairs office in Canberra from the Arnhem Land cave she’s working in, an official mentions he’s never been to the Top End. “Typical, I thought. Probably been to every museum in Florence and yet never seen the Lightning Man at Nourlangie Rock.” Still, the Sarajevo Haggadah intrigues her, and she feels compelled to agree to the request to go back and face some unanswered questions. As her colleague says: “I have spent many nights, lying awake here in this room, thinking that the haggadah came to Sarajevo for a reason. It was here to test us, to see if there were people who could see that what united us was more than what divided us. That to be a human being matters more than to be a Jew or a Muslim, Catholic or Orthodox.” What wonderful stories Brooks weaves around the facts. All believable, all fascinating. Takeaway message? That to be a human being matters more than to be a Jew or a Muslim, Catholic or Orthodox.” The real book: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarajev...

  9. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    There's nothing bad about this but there's nothing exciting about it either. I'd describe it as assembly line fiction. A novel that is designed to be a crowd pleaser. It never strays from formulaic commercial boundaries. The story is well-plotted and researched. The prose is professional but never inspired. The characters are on the bland side, each one with a predictable problematical relationship. The author has won the Pulitzer prize so I was expecting something much braver and more literary. There's nothing bad about this but there's nothing exciting about it either. I'd describe it as assembly line fiction. A novel that is designed to be a crowd pleaser. It never strays from formulaic commercial boundaries. The story is well-plotted and researched. The prose is professional but never inspired. The characters are on the bland side, each one with a predictable problematical relationship. The author has won the Pulitzer prize so I was expecting something much braver and more literary. I reached page 120 and realised I would much rather be reading Cormac McCarthy.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    What a fantastic story. Don't be put off by the first bit when you meet Hanna, the main character: she is supposed to be kind of annoying. You end up loving her with a compassion that this author can magically instill in you for all of her characters, of which there are many. The book also spans many centuries and traverses many continents, so it's a bit complex. But wow: This account of the history of a little book takes you through the darkest hours of human history, including the Inquisition What a fantastic story. Don't be put off by the first bit when you meet Hanna, the main character: she is supposed to be kind of annoying. You end up loving her with a compassion that this author can magically instill in you for all of her characters, of which there are many. The book also spans many centuries and traverses many continents, so it's a bit complex. But wow: This account of the history of a little book takes you through the darkest hours of human history, including the Inquisition and the Holocaust, but you end up feeling somehow so uplifted by the story. Brooks has a way of taking dire, nasty topics (the bubonic plague and civil war are the settings of her other two novels)and turning them into parables that portray our deep goodness and strength and grace in the face of unimaginable horror and hardhship. I just think she is an amazingly gifted writer. Highly recommend. But not for the faint-hearted.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Annet

    What I do is me, for that I came... Still building this review.... bit by bit as thoughts keep coming... This is grand book. Impressive. Intriguing. Tragic. Beautiful. From beginning to the end. I don't usually like books on war situations but this book received so many good comments and ratings from Goodreads I decided to go for it. I did not regret it. Each chapter is a time jump, to and fro in time. And starts with a quote, like this one, page 329 in my book: A white hair Seville, 1480 My eyes seep What I do is me, for that I came... Still building this review.... bit by bit as thoughts keep coming... This is grand book. Impressive. Intriguing. Tragic. Beautiful. From beginning to the end. I don't usually like books on war situations but this book received so many good comments and ratings from Goodreads I decided to go for it. I did not regret it. Each chapter is a time jump, to and fro in time. And starts with a quote, like this one, page 329 in my book: A white hair Seville, 1480 My eyes seep sorrow; water skins with holes - Abid bin al-Abras Part of a review (Miami Herald): "Stellar - compelling story. Brooks seamlessly moves from the miniscule - the tiny specks - to examine in human terms the larger events from the thirteenth century and into the twenty-first: the inquisition, the rise of anti-semitism, nazism and the holocaust, religious wars and forces exiles, in Bosnia, Venice, Barcelona and Seville." Big five star. A sensitive story, crossing borders, crossing time lines....Realistic and poetic at the same time. Will be back with more, probably in the weekend. Highly recommended! I wanted to give a sense of the people of the book, the different hands that had made it, used it, protected it....

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Geraldine Brook's latest is a treat for us librarians (as well as dedicated to us in the front!) as she traces the path of an ancient religious text that, although Jewish in origin, was saved and added to several times over by members of different religions and cultures throughout time. As usual, Brooks' prose is both incredibly readable and laudably literary, and her theme that the love of knowledge and books crosses all historical and cultural boundaries is well illustrated through her complex Geraldine Brook's latest is a treat for us librarians (as well as dedicated to us in the front!) as she traces the path of an ancient religious text that, although Jewish in origin, was saved and added to several times over by members of different religions and cultures throughout time. As usual, Brooks' prose is both incredibly readable and laudably literary, and her theme that the love of knowledge and books crosses all historical and cultural boundaries is well illustrated through her complex characterizations and real-life-inspired plot. In the end, all of us who love, teach, and support literacy and learning are "People of the Book."

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    This is a wonderful story of a magical book, an illuminated manuscript begun in the 15th century and found in Sarajevo after the Bosnian War, a Jewish manuscript rescued by a Muslim librarian who could not bear to see such a treasure be destroyed. Based on some fact and the author's talented recreation, we see the history of this religious piece over the years as some seek to destroy it and others work to save or embellish it. We move backward in time from the modern time to the Nazi era, to 19th This is a wonderful story of a magical book, an illuminated manuscript begun in the 15th century and found in Sarajevo after the Bosnian War, a Jewish manuscript rescued by a Muslim librarian who could not bear to see such a treasure be destroyed. Based on some fact and the author's talented recreation, we see the history of this religious piece over the years as some seek to destroy it and others work to save or embellish it. We move backward in time from the modern time to the Nazi era, to 19th century Europe, to the days of the Inquisition. I found I learned some history here while following the book. For this I thank Ms Brooks. I definitely will have to try others of her books.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    I could have sworn I wrote a review. I read this book the first week it was released.... I LOVED IT!!!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Vegan

    This is a marvelous book. I really enjoyed this author’s Year of Wonders and I think I liked this book at least as much. This is skillful and enthralling storytelling that’s also thought provoking. This book is one of the most skillful renderings of a book that goes back and forth in time that I’ve ever read. Ditto for the writing of a historical fiction account, especially one that has part of its history in the very recent past. This is a historical fiction story about the Sarajevo Haggadah. (A This is a marvelous book. I really enjoyed this author’s Year of Wonders and I think I liked this book at least as much. This is skillful and enthralling storytelling that’s also thought provoking. This book is one of the most skillful renderings of a book that goes back and forth in time that I’ve ever read. Ditto for the writing of a historical fiction account, especially one that has part of its history in the very recent past. This is a historical fiction story about the Sarajevo Haggadah. (A Haggadah is a Jewish religious text that sets out the order of the Passover Seder. During Pesach, it is read every year on the first night, and in some traditions on the second night as well, for the Seder service.) The story goes from present to past, back to present, to farther and farther in the past several times, each time returning to present day, and ending back again in the present. I was afraid this storytelling technique wouldn’t appeal to me or that I’d have a difficult time remembering everything and everyone, but the author manages to tell each story flawlessly and she’s able to perfectly connect all the stories. I cared about so many of the characters in each historical period and place. I enjoyed every single sub-story, and I became emotionally involved with each one. Right away, as soon as I opened the book, I was happy because there’s a map. A map is on the inside front and back covers. Oh, how I love maps in books! This one is wonderful because it follows the route the Hagggadah in the story took: from Seville in 1480 to Sarajevo in the twentieth century. There are a few drawings on the map of how things would have looked in these places/times too. I particularly enjoyed the story of present day Hanna’s relationship with her mother, but I hate to single out that one because there were so many wonderful characters and relationships. I was extremely touched by one of the main characters from the 1480 portion of the story. On page 320 of the book this quote: “The point – that diverse cultures influence and enrich one another…” sums up a lot of what happens during the course of the 500 years of the story. While this influence was shown not always to be from benign relationships, I found it particularly interesting and heartwarming that positive relationships between Jews and Muslims were shown throughout these 500 years. If there are any villains at all, it is the Christian inquisitors and rulers during the late 1400s to the early 1600s, but Christian, Muslim, and Jewish characters from all periods are shown as admirable, and often as having friendly and mutually beneficial relationships with one another. Both laudable and monstrous human characteristics are shown. There are people who risk their lives to save people and books; there is torture, slavery, and other atrocities as well. As someone who loves books, and who appreciates old books, I found this fictional history of a book fascinating. I was also absorbed both by the inside look at the craft of book conservation work and by the detective work that can be involved as part of it. On a personal note: I’ve been an Olympics junkie since my teens and clearly remember the Sarajevo Olympics, including the interviews at the time about how everyone in the area was getting along so well together, and then what happened there in the years following, so those parts of the story seemed very familiar to me. Historical fiction stories often torment me because I always want to know what’s real and what is fiction. As I was finishing up reading this, I planned to research what was history and what was fictional in this tale. What I very much appreciated about this book is that the author gives the reader all this information in the afterword; she does so in a very few pages but does so comprehensively. An added note: My book club meeting to discuss this book isn't for over a month, but I'm not concerned about it remembering enough; this is a memorable book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I buy a lot of books. It's sort of sad, given that I am supposed to be budgeting and have completely (okay, almost completely) stopped buying clothes, but books call to me. I figure you can buy a paperback for $10, or you can go to a movie for $10 - one gets you a couple of hours of entertainment in a confined space, one gets you hours of entertainment wherever you want them. So, anyway, I went into this book planning to love it. I even caved and bought the hardbound, so anxious was I to start. I buy a lot of books. It's sort of sad, given that I am supposed to be budgeting and have completely (okay, almost completely) stopped buying clothes, but books call to me. I figure you can buy a paperback for $10, or you can go to a movie for $10 - one gets you a couple of hours of entertainment in a confined space, one gets you hours of entertainment wherever you want them. So, anyway, I went into this book planning to love it. I even caved and bought the hardbound, so anxious was I to start. I wanted this book to be "Pillars of the Earth," I wanted it to be "The Historian." I was expecting grand sweeps across the globe, across centuries, and rich images of life in those places and times. But it isn't that. Honestly, I was expecting more, and maybe expecting too much? I did not read Brooks' first book - the one that won the Pulitzer - "March." But I think I will. Instead of wrapping me up in a story that evolves over space and time, Brooks tries to wrap up each little story into too neat a package, which always left me wanting more. I suppose the fact that I never wanted the book to end, and, more specifically, mourned the end of each segment at the same time that I yearned for the next, should tell me something about how much I actually did like the book. Even so, I disappointed at the end. When Brooks is not tying very neat little bows, she is spinning stories around very neat little cliches, which will leave you feeling like you have read this book before. Others may find great enjoyment in the love stories and family dramas carefully interspersed by Brooks, but I craved to read more of filmy butterfly wings captured on a laboratory slide, of ancient ink-making techniques, or the mysteries that accompany preservation.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lbsantini

    I only got through the first 50 pages on this one. I'll try her novel The Wonder Years, but I found the narrator just too whipsmart. Also, there was a line or two that made me groan outloud. When Hannah is sitting on a plane next to someone who removes mines, she says to herself something like: "I thought about making a borderline comment like, 'business booming, eh?'" Yuck! Also, she "seduces" a guy by licking his fingers at a restaurant. All I could think was, "Who really does that?" It made m I only got through the first 50 pages on this one. I'll try her novel The Wonder Years, but I found the narrator just too whipsmart. Also, there was a line or two that made me groan outloud. When Hannah is sitting on a plane next to someone who removes mines, she says to herself something like: "I thought about making a borderline comment like, 'business booming, eh?'" Yuck! Also, she "seduces" a guy by licking his fingers at a restaurant. All I could think was, "Who really does that?" It made my toes curl (in a bad way).

  18. 4 out of 5

    Julie Christine

    I adored this novel! It contained all the elements of my favorite contemporary fiction: impeccable historical research, geographic locales that are as strong as the characters, characters who are multi-dimensional & believable, a plot that weaves multiple threads and themes in good pace and with precision. With this, Brooks moves into my favorite authors column.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Stacy LeVine

    SO DISAPPOINTING!!! The protagonist is a rancid harpy about whom I don’t care a damn, and the mother’s more loathsome than the spawn! Brooks accomplishes nothing by opting for repugnant main characters. Moreover, the entire modern-day plot is offensively implausible (not to mention, totally derivative of ANGELS & DEMONS and THE DA VINCI CODE). As to the historical fiction, I appreciate what Brooks is trying to do. Some of what she comes up with is interesting enough. I actually quite dig the s SO DISAPPOINTING!!! The protagonist is a rancid harpy about whom I don’t care a damn, and the mother’s more loathsome than the spawn! Brooks accomplishes nothing by opting for repugnant main characters. Moreover, the entire modern-day plot is offensively implausible (not to mention, totally derivative of ANGELS & DEMONS and THE DA VINCI CODE). As to the historical fiction, I appreciate what Brooks is trying to do. Some of what she comes up with is interesting enough. I actually quite dig the section set in Vienna during La Belle Époque. But the section set in Seville during La Convivencia is virtually unreadable. That entire swath of the novel is written with such apparently deliberate vagueness that I’m left unable to picture what’s being described. At all. If the reader can’t conjure any mental image from the text, the novelist has failed. And the more vivid the mind movies fostered, the better the book. That said, I vehemently recommend the article that inspired the novel, which Brooks published in the December 2007 issue of The New Yorker. Truly among the most moving works of feature writing I’ve yet read. Brooks is, by trade, a reporter (and a good one). But she is not (as yet) a novelist. Perhaps she should stick to journalism and leave fiction to those more adept with character and evocative language.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Denae

    People of the Book is a stunningly beautiful book about another stunningly beautiful book. It fictionalizes the true story of the Sarajevo Haggadah, a unique, 500-year old version of a book read at Jewish Passover Seders. It illustrates the story of how and why Passover came to be. People of the Book looks at the fascinating story of the Haggadah's travels through the years and creates a story from them. All of the characters are fictional and some of the chapters are admittedly entirely fiction People of the Book is a stunningly beautiful book about another stunningly beautiful book. It fictionalizes the true story of the Sarajevo Haggadah, a unique, 500-year old version of a book read at Jewish Passover Seders. It illustrates the story of how and why Passover came to be. People of the Book looks at the fascinating story of the Haggadah's travels through the years and creates a story from them. All of the characters are fictional and some of the chapters are admittedly entirely fiction while others contain more factual information. While reading I did not care at all which was which and I am not certain I do now. Geraldine Brooks.ostensibly tells the story of a book, but as the title hints, what she really tells is the story of a people.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Geraldine Brooks has a way of weaving through historical moments of cogent settings, to make powerful, real-life stories vivid through narrative. Most times I find her narrative peculiar and alluring, like the close narration in March, for example. In Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague, she had me immersed in style and dialect and of the three novels of hers I've read so far, she managed to keep me invested in the setting and "situation"(i.e. war). Bosnia was a focus in this book, and it ope Geraldine Brooks has a way of weaving through historical moments of cogent settings, to make powerful, real-life stories vivid through narrative. Most times I find her narrative peculiar and alluring, like the close narration in March, for example. In Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague, she had me immersed in style and dialect and of the three novels of hers I've read so far, she managed to keep me invested in the setting and "situation"(i.e. war). Bosnia was a focus in this book, and it opened with Hanna Heath, the woman chosen to work on "one of the rarest and most mysterious volumes in the world: The Sarajevo Haggadah, an illuminated Hebrew manuscript." Hanna's flat narration works, once you realize her backstory: she is a woman who misses a mother's love, so she seeks it in her work, "sometimes I feel like a figure in one of the Persian miniatures I conserve, a tiny person forever watched by immobile faces, staring down from high galleries or spying from behind lattice screens. But in my case, the faces are always just that one face, my mother's, with her pursed mouth an disapproving glare." The novel, however, didn't get me as emotionally bound as the other two did; somehow the characters (and the fact that too many were introduced too early) didn't seem to move the story as I'd expected. I have Caleb's Crossing on the list to read next and I can't wait to get to it.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    Rating: 3* of five This is the very first book about books I've ever read that left me hating people more than when I started it. Hanna, what a terrible waste of a person. Sarah, her mother, my GOD what a cold, stoney bas-relief of a human being she was. Orzen, Werner, yechptui on all of 'em and the parts set in the past...! The Nazis, well, it's shootin' tuna in a 55-gallon oil drum (aka the Gulf of Mexico) to hate THEM, but the collaborators! On and on, back through the Western World's horrible, Rating: 3* of five This is the very first book about books I've ever read that left me hating people more than when I started it. Hanna, what a terrible waste of a person. Sarah, her mother, my GOD what a cold, stoney bas-relief of a human being she was. Orzen, Werner, yechptui on all of 'em and the parts set in the past...! The Nazis, well, it's shootin' tuna in a 55-gallon oil drum (aka the Gulf of Mexico) to hate THEM, but the collaborators! On and on, back through the Western World's horrible, cruel, hagridden-by-God history...! The Sarajevo Haggadah is to be pitied that it was created by human hands. Books can bear evil (The Turner Diaries) but few become the focus of such concentrated evil as Brooks paints this poor thing. Brooks isn't any kind of an exciting writer, and her structure here...skippity-lurch, tilty-whirl...never got down into anything like the *good* parts of the people who puke, fuck, and torture their way through the book. Too much to do, too much to tell, and I was left at the end of it all...blackly depressed. This may very well be the only time anyone will ever see me type this: Shoulda been longer. Or a short story. As it is, it's just a frustrating overachiever of a story, and that is annoying as all hell.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Meredith Holley

    I think an alternative title for this book could have been something like Women and Love or What Women Mean When They Talk About Love. Something like that. It was so beautiful in this delicate, fine-art way, and I was so surprised at this book’s beauty, that I feel totally inadequate in trying to describe my reaction to it. It is that type of beauty I feel when I think about the improbability of our bodies being alive or of Michelangelo’s ceiling in the Sistine Chapel or of microscopic images of I think an alternative title for this book could have been something like Women and Love or What Women Mean When They Talk About Love. Something like that. It was so beautiful in this delicate, fine-art way, and I was so surprised at this book’s beauty, that I feel totally inadequate in trying to describe my reaction to it. It is that type of beauty I feel when I think about the improbability of our bodies being alive or of Michelangelo’s ceiling in the Sistine Chapel or of microscopic images of snowflakes. There is no way the universe could conspire so delicately for those things to work in such a way that their beauty is not so improbable as to be obscenely contrived, but somehow it does work. It is beautiful. And now that I’ve compared this book to the Sistine Chapel, there is no way anyone could go into it liking it. It’s like that time this douchey guy told me that Bright Eyes is the new Bob Dylan. I mean, Bright Eyes is not great anyway – talk about being in love with your own mysterious allure – but, compared to Bob Dylan, Mr. Eyes is just embarrassing. So, here I am ruining this book for you like that. At the same time, after reading this, I understood a lot more why someone would write a book like Olive Kitteridge, using multiple, somewhat unrelated, perspectives strung together by a common theme. While that one just seemed ridiculous, this one soared for me, and I can see how, as an author, you could want to aim for this kind of delicacy in weaving together stories. I listened to this on audio, and it was like hearing someone describe every way a woman’s love can be beautiful and painful, harsh and delicate. Some books will make me cry, but this book brought me to tears, which is the same thing but more elegant because of this story’s elegance. The reader’s voice was lovely, and the only fault with listening to this on audio was that there was so much I wanted to hear and follow that I know I missed a lot. I usually choose audio books based on the idea that it won’t matter if I space out during the book (because I space out a lot while I’m walking to work and listening to them), so I normally choose a book that I’ve read before or something I don’t think I’ll love that much. I was surprised at how much I loved this one and how much I felt I missed by listening to the audio. It is not a difficult book, but it definitely contains subtlety and passages that I would probably have read over again if I were reading it on the page. This is not a very exciting review, I think, because it doesn’t contain an exciting story. I have the most wonderful job in the world right now, at which the most amazing things happen, but I can’t talk about it on the internet. And, no, my job is not Fight Club. If I could, I would tell you about how this has probably been the best year of my life so far, and about all of its beauty and fullness, and about how pain is as much a part of the beauty as comfort or wonder are. And I would tell you about the women I have seen and the ways they are with the love in their lives. But, instead, I will just be vague, and say that this book resonated with me both in the year I have had and in the life I have had. It talked about the right things and in the right way. And, of course, it was about a book, which I imagine is the universal symbol of love.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tania

    It was here to test us, to see if there were people who could see that what united us was more than what divided us. That to be a human being matters more than to be a Jew or a Muslim, Catholic or Orthodox. 3.5 stars. I absolutely loved the historical fiction stories. It worked really well telling them in reverse chronological order, as it feels like you are slowly unfolding the suprises of the Sarajevo Haggadah. The people in these stories and the stories themselves were so diverse and interesti It was here to test us, to see if there were people who could see that what united us was more than what divided us. That to be a human being matters more than to be a Jew or a Muslim, Catholic or Orthodox. 3.5 stars. I absolutely loved the historical fiction stories. It worked really well telling them in reverse chronological order, as it feels like you are slowly unfolding the suprises of the Sarajevo Haggadah. The people in these stories and the stories themselves were so diverse and interesting I could not wait to get to the next one. As always truth is stranger than fiction, and I loved finding out that this novel and some of the events was based on the true story of an ancient Jewish codex saved from the fire by a Muslim librarian. Unfortunately I did not enjoy the "now" story that binds all of these together. I never connected with Hanna or anyone else, especially her mom, who was the most one-dimensional character I've read in a long time. Even with this critique I highly recommend this book if you are interested in HF and religion. The Story: The novel tells the fictional story of Hanna Heath, an Australian book conservator who is responsible for restoring one of the oldest surviving Jewish illuminated texts. The story follows the Haggadah backward in time as it travels across Europe, from war-torn Sarajevo to the book's origins.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dolors

    What is it that makes a book compelling? This one, apparently, has all the necessary ingredients to make a novel difficult to forget. I'd say it's historically well researched, it has masterly developed and believable characters and an interesting thread which holds all of them together. "People of the book" is exactly that, the story of the different people who, through centuries and centuries, managed to create or to keep or to protect one of the most treasured books ever, an ancient Haggadah. Th What is it that makes a book compelling? This one, apparently, has all the necessary ingredients to make a novel difficult to forget. I'd say it's historically well researched, it has masterly developed and believable characters and an interesting thread which holds all of them together. "People of the book" is exactly that, the story of the different people who, through centuries and centuries, managed to create or to keep or to protect one of the most treasured books ever, an ancient Haggadah. The protagonist of the story, Miss Hanna Heath, an Australian book expert, receives the job of her life: to examine this rare exemplar and to trace its story through different clues: wine stains, a single white hair, a broken wing of a butterfly, a drop of salted water... Each chapter, starting from recent times and going backwards, gives the reader a real glimpse of what the lives of the people who had the book might have been like: Jews in modern Sarajevo, Inquisition in hypocritical Venice, Muslim and Christians in Spain... There's a great deal of history in this novel, and, in my humble opinion, a well researched one. So, why only the two stars then? I really don't know. It's not that I didn't like the story: an old precious book, and independent and smart heroine, the well thread characters... It seemed the book had it all. I was actually quite hooked at the beginning, but when I kept reading, I started to feel disconnected from the different characters which appear along the novel. In a way, it seemed like a collection of short stories (which I generally don't enjoy much), and even though you learnt something about each one, it felt as if their stories were left unfinished, and some of them became even uninteresting. And then, I ended up sort-of-not empathising with Hannah, especially regarding the story with her mother, it seemed a bit cheapened in the end. Not to talk about that supposed relationship with Ozren, completely unreal and fake. It's like if the author didn't care much about the people in her novel, they go through horrible experiences and everything is explained like if it was a picnic. Yeah, I guess the true protagonist is the book, not the people... Well, I can only say I didn't enjoy reading the novel, and although I recognise it's a well written book, I won't be searching for anything else by this author.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Perri

    Brooks must have done mad research for this dense and beautifully written story. It's based on a real artifact from the 15th century-the Sarajevo Haggadah which is an illustrated Jewish prayer book created in Spain. Brooks writes an imaginary account of the book's travel through a wide but interconnected series of people from different ethnicity, status, and race. I think the author must have done her job when I'm googling fictional characters-they all seemed SO real. The main things I love abou Brooks must have done mad research for this dense and beautifully written story. It's based on a real artifact from the 15th century-the Sarajevo Haggadah which is an illustrated Jewish prayer book created in Spain. Brooks writes an imaginary account of the book's travel through a wide but interconnected series of people from different ethnicity, status, and race. I think the author must have done her job when I'm googling fictional characters-they all seemed SO real. The main things I love about her book is hope in the midst of conflict. Although our diverse cultures and religions have mounted eons of conflict with hideous ways to hurt each other, individual acts of courage and kindness make a difference. Another bonus is the stunning cover.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    Finally finished People of the Book and I’m not sure what I have to say about it. It’s rare for me to not have much to say about a book but I don’t think I do. This is a book that has been on my “to read” list long before I was a member of GR and even had a list to put it on. I think this is a book whose premise has always been attractive to me but as many times as I’ve seen it online or held it in my grasp at the bookstore I never brought it home to start the relationship. I’d read the first Finally finished People of the Book and I’m not sure what I have to say about it. It’s rare for me to not have much to say about a book but I don’t think I do. This is a book that has been on my “to read” list long before I was a member of GR and even had a list to put it on. I think this is a book whose premise has always been attractive to me but as many times as I’ve seen it online or held it in my grasp at the bookstore I never brought it home to start the relationship. I’d read the first page and then put it down. Although the premise sounded like everything that “text book Deb” would enjoy, something about it just never pushed me further. Having read a review of a friend who loved it and running into it in the thrift bookstore pushed me over the edge and I finally took the plunge. But still…. I like to consider the analogy of a relationship with a lot of my books and so with this in mind, I want to tell People of the Book , “It’s not you, it’s me.” The poor book sheds a few tears. I turn away, I can’t bare to see it so distraught. “Look, Book… I guess I just wasn’t in the mood for your type of intensity.” Book: “But my writing was impeccable. I talked took you on a historical fiction escapade and even included a traveling object.” Me: “ I know.. I liked it. I liked learning about the book. I liked how you toggled back and forth telling me about the history and the origin of the book and its previous owners. That was good. I like things like this but… Book: “I tried to provide you with a little mystery. I know you like this.. usually. Book hangs it’s head.. shuffles it’s pages, kicks the table it’s standing on. Me: “Book… listen. It wasn’t you. I liked what you had to offer… but something was missing. I guess.. I’m just not into you. Book slams itself down upon the table indignant. Book: “It was the T.V. wasn’t it! It was the computer! Those damned Hollywood, Bollywood, Nollywood movies with their bright colors and their subtitles.. I tried to give you culture as well.” I stroke books cover gently. Me: “I…I know Book. It just was not meant to be. Forgive me. If you like, you don’t have to give up your home on my shelf. You can stay. Hey.. maybe we’ll get together again and revisit. Because you are good book. Don’t ever let anyone tell you’re not. You got a little slow at the end and sometimes I was annoyed by your flash backs but all in all.. I’ll always have strong feelings towards you and we always have our memories.” The People of the Book and I have parted ways. I was not as an attentive reader as I should have been. I’m sure there will be others to appreciate it’s qualities. I assume something about the relationship was just not enough to hold my attention at this time. I recommend this book to historical fiction readers. The writing is lovely and it’s well written. I give it 3 stars and I wish it well in all its future endeavors.

  28. 4 out of 5

    jo

    i am not a great fan of historical fiction, but this book is interesting and inventive and lovely and i'm so glad i read it. it follows the story of a particularly beautiful haggadah, the passover prayer book (am i saying this right?), through various centuries and incredible journeys, in alternating chapters in which you see a contemporary book curator trying to unveil the history of this amazing object, just resurfaced in sarajevo (it's 1996 and the war is raging), then jump back in history an i am not a great fan of historical fiction, but this book is interesting and inventive and lovely and i'm so glad i read it. it follows the story of a particularly beautiful haggadah, the passover prayer book (am i saying this right?), through various centuries and incredible journeys, in alternating chapters in which you see a contemporary book curator trying to unveil the history of this amazing object, just resurfaced in sarajevo (it's 1996 and the war is raging), then jump back in history and see what really happened. what "really happened" is a masterpiece of creativity and generosity and complexity. it also works quite well as a brief (and sketchy) history of the last six century of jewish life in europe, and helps the ignorant reader (that would be me) get a glimpse of the astounding level of persecution the jews were subjected to in my fair continent at the hand of my church. if you are, as i am, a catholic, you will feel quite humbled and not a little angry. and if you, like me, have been quite outraged by israel's wars of aggressions and indiscriminate violence, you will be given a chance to understand. and understanding is an essential step to peace and reconciliation. a tension that runs through the book and makes it a very frustrating but brilliant whodunnit is the complete blindness of the contemporary curator, whose studies and researches can take her only a fraction of the way to the truth. this is not just about the density of life and secrets and stories that old objects (and books!) carry with and on them, but also -- and this is certainly a corollary to what i said above -- about how little we know of anything, how many impenetrable mysteries texture history and human life and each individual human existence. we think we know and understand, instead we know absolutely nothing.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Connie

    The Sarajevo Haggadah, an illuminated Hebrew manuscript, was saved during the Bosnian conflict by a Muslim librarian at the National Museum and placed in a bank vault. Hanna Heath, an Australian rare book specialist, is given the opportunity to inspect and conserve this beautiful book which dates back to 15th Century Spain. As she inspects it, she finds evidence that suggests the history of the Haggadah as it changes hands traveling from Spain to Sarajevo. "People of the Book" moves forward in ti The Sarajevo Haggadah, an illuminated Hebrew manuscript, was saved during the Bosnian conflict by a Muslim librarian at the National Museum and placed in a bank vault. Hanna Heath, an Australian rare book specialist, is given the opportunity to inspect and conserve this beautiful book which dates back to 15th Century Spain. As she inspects it, she finds evidence that suggests the history of the Haggadah as it changes hands traveling from Spain to Sarajevo. "People of the Book" moves forward in time with Hanna's life--her career, a love interest, her mother--which is the less interesting half of the book. In alternating chapters written almost like short stories, it moves back in time to Bosnia in World War II, to 19th Century Vienna, to Venice during the Inquisiton, and to Spain in the 15th Century. Sometimes, I wished I knew more about what eventually happened to the characters in the historical stories. The manuscript changed hands at times of intolerance among the Christians, Jews, and Muslims. The Sarajevo Haggadah is a main character in the story. It is an actual book that the author learned about while working as a journalist in Sarajevo. She was inspired by real historical events, but created the engaging characters and situations. The author must have done an impressive amount of research to write about so many periods of history. Although I liked the format of the story, the swings from the present to the past might bother some readers who prefer more straight-forward storytelling. The book was a reminder of how many people in history have used religion as a source of conflict and prejudice, instead of using it for good purposes. I found "People of the Book" fascinating, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nikoleta

    Ένα όμορφο βιβλίο με θέμα το βιβλίο. Βέβαια αυτό το θέμα είναι το εργαλείο για να μιλήσει για το πραγματικό θέμα του, τις θρησκευτικές και πολιτισμικές διαμάχες. Το τέχνασμα που χρησιμοποιεί για να το πετύχει νομίζω ότι είναι εκπληκτικό. Η ηρωίδα του βιβλίου Χάννα καλείτε στο Σαράγεβο να συντηρήσει ένα μοναδικό στο είδος του εβραϊκό χειρόγραφο, σε αυτό ανακαλύπτει και αποφασίζει να ερευνήσει κάποια πολύ μικρά αλλά σημαντικά κατά την γνώμη της στοιχεία. Ένα μικροσκοπικό κομμάτι από το φτερό μιας Ένα όμορφο βιβλίο με θέμα το βιβλίο. Βέβαια αυτό το θέμα είναι το εργαλείο για να μιλήσει για το πραγματικό θέμα του, τις θρησκευτικές και πολιτισμικές διαμάχες. Το τέχνασμα που χρησιμοποιεί για να το πετύχει νομίζω ότι είναι εκπληκτικό. Η ηρωίδα του βιβλίου Χάννα καλείτε στο Σαράγεβο να συντηρήσει ένα μοναδικό στο είδος του εβραϊκό χειρόγραφο, σε αυτό ανακαλύπτει και αποφασίζει να ερευνήσει κάποια πολύ μικρά αλλά σημαντικά κατά την γνώμη της στοιχεία. Ένα μικροσκοπικό κομμάτι από το φτερό μιας πεταλούδας, υπολείμματα από αλάτι, κόκκινο κρασί και μία λευκή τρίχα. Μετά από κάθε κεφάλαιο στο οποίο παίρνει απάντηση για το κάθε στοιχείο, η συγγραφέας ξεκινά ένα νέο κεφάλαιο όπου μας μεταφέρει στην ιστορία του πως έφτασε το κάθε στοιχείο όντως εκεί, στο Σαράγεβο το 1940, στη Βιέννη το 1894, στη Βενετία ΤΟ 1609, στην Ταραγόνα το 1492 κ στην Σεβίλη το 1480, έτσι λοιπόν γνωρίζουμε τους ανθρώπους του βιβλίου -όπως πολύ εύστοχα ονόμασε το βιβλίο της η Μπρουκς (people of the book) που πολύ άστοχα άλλαξε η Ωκεανίδα σε “ το μυστικό χειρόγραφο της Χάννα” (από πού κ ως που μυστικό;)-οι οποίοι όπως ανακαλύπτουμε πάντα μα πάντα εμπλέκονται άθελα τους σε μια θρησκευτική διαμάχη και εκδιώκονται εξαιτίας της, Πολύ γοητευτικές βρήκα κατά την γνώμη μου κ τις πάμπολλες πληροφορίες για την επιστήμη και την ιστορία της βιβλιοδεσίας κ της συντήρησης βιβλίων, αν κ ίσως πολλοί τις βρουν κουραστικές. Μου άρεσε αρκετά.

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