Saturday, May 28, 2011

Books: People of the Book

People of the Book
By Geraldine Brooks
Read by Edwina Wren
14 hours unabridged
Copyright 2008

I adored Brook's novel Year of Wonders and People of the Book proved to be just as intriguing.

Hanna Heath, an Australian book expert, goes to Sarajevo to look at and fix a book called a haggadah, a Jewish prayer book that is 500 years old. It is one of the earliest Jewish books to have illustrations and thus very rare and priceless.

While she is working on the book, she falls for the librarian who saved it during the Bosnian war. She also discovers some tiny artifacts within the book: an inset wing, wine stains, salt crystals, and a white hair.

The story then takes the reader back in time to explain how each of these items ended up in the book, giving the readers characters and story. It is smartly and deftly done, and the reader eventually learns who made the drawings and how the book came to be made and saved.

Additionally, if one knows little of the Jewish faith, and I confess that I am ignorant of it, for the most part, there might be something to learn here. Details of the Spanish Inquisition, for one thing, were rather horrifying as presented in this novel. The author is so detailed and exacting that I feel certain the things she wrote about must have some truth to them.

There is also a little present-day mystery to be solved, as well as much character-building with Hanna and her mother. That in and of itself is an interesting second plot line.

This novel was inspired by a true story, which made it all the more interesting to me. While I enjoyed the audio, I did get lost once or twice (maybe the result of the passage of time as I listened to this in the car), so the print version might be a better venue.

Highly recommended.

2 comments:

  1. This is another book that's been moldering in Mount TBR a couple years now. One of these days...

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  2. Just as a point of reference, the Haggadah is the book that contains the order of the service for Passover - specifically, the Seder that a family holds on the first two nights (only the first night in Israel) of Passover.

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