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People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

The Book:

Source for ‘The Book’ section : From Goodreads
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

The View:

A book about a book???? Why wouldn’t anyone love it. That is what I thought when I started reading about Sarajevo Haggadah, a 500-year-old Jewish book that was rescued by a Muslim Librarian. As I read People of the Book, I realised that just as the name suggests this one is more about the people associated with the book and not the book itself. The uniqueness of the story telling lay with the numerous people who handled the book and thus left some prints that would reveal it’s path many years later.

Hanna Heath, a book restoration expert finds a few interesting items associated with the book like a butterfly wing, a wine stained page etc. She investigates each of these items and finds that every single one of them had a tale of its own. The story telling moved between eras talking about the most recent discovery and the associated tale from the past. Because of the standalone tale and the story telling style I felt that the plot lacked a very important element – “The Flow” and this was a major disappointment.

The characters in the plot had different effects on me. The elements, descriptions and people from the past were detailed well-enough to leave an impact on the reader. But the most recent people, like Hanna, her mother, her lover etc where not at all impressive. I felt the plot had some forced relationship failures like the mother daughter misunderstandings or Hanna’s relationship with the librarian. I would have liked Hanna to be more realistic, someone who struggled with making some key findings. I understand her obsession with knowing the truth and her passion; but would have liked for her to have a few failures and frustrations as that would have made her much more realistic.

I enjoyed this book, but I wanted it to be so much more and for that I can only give it a 3.5 on 5. I loved the journey that the book takes and wish that many many years from now our future generations can find tales about us through our books.. And for that, put down your e-reader and pick up a paper book now.



One Response

  1. Right now it sounds like WordPress is the best blogging platform out there
    right now. (from what I’ve read) Is that what you are using on your blog?

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