Book Review

Book Review: People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

Title: People of the BookBook Review - People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

Author: Geraldine Brooks

Publisher: Viking Books

Genre: Historical Fiction

First Publication: 2008

Language: English

Major Characters: Hanna Heath, Ozren Karaman, Serif Kamal, Stela Kamal, Amitai Yomtov, Werner Heinrich, Razmus Kanaha, Dr. Franz Hirschfeldt, Florien Mittl, Giovanni Domenico Vistorini, Judah Aryeh, Sarah Heath

Setting Place: Bosnia and Herzegovina

Theme: Religious tolerance and intolerance, Love, Self-Preservation Versus Historical Preservation

Narrator: Both, the first and third-person narrative

 

Book Summary: People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

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.

“A book is more than the sum of its materials. It is an artifact of the human mind and hand.”

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. And 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.

 

Book Review: People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks 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 People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. I loved “Year of Wonders” but I now think that this book is Brook’s masterpiece.

“Book burnings. Always the forerunners. Heralds of the stake, the ovens, the mass graves.”

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 artefacts in the book’s 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 it’s salvation back to it’s creation.

In Bosnia during WWII, a Muslim risks his life to protect the book from the Nazis. And in the hedonistic salons of fin-de-siecle 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.

“We were too intelligent, too cynical for war. Of course, you don’t have to be stupid and primitive to die a stupid, primitive death.”

In Barcelona in 1492, the scribe who wrote the text sees his family destroyed by the agonies of enforced exile. 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 an intimate emotional intensity, an ambitious, electrifying work by an acclaimed and beloved author.

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