Debbie's World of Books
My book reviews, book news & random rants

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

January 2nd, 2009 by Debbie's World of Books


I would rate this book as a 4 out of 5 stars.

Description: Hanna Heath is an Australian rare book expert that is called in to examine and restore the Sarajevo Haggadah that was rescued during the Bosnian war.  This copy of the Haggadah is unusual in that it was filled with illuminations which was unheard of in Jewish texts of that age.   There is also the added mystery of an unknown dark skinned woman painted in one of the images.   The book follows a series of discoveries by Hanna during her examination.  She finds tiny artifacts like an insect wing, a strand of cat hair, a wine stain mixed with blood and so on.  These clues slowly reveal the story of where the Haggadah originated from.

I was surprised at the end of the book to find out that this author also wrote The Year of Wonders which I did not enjoy at all.  I’m glad to say I had a much higher opinion of this book.

As I was reading the book I alternated between thinking this was a great book and thinking I would never get through it.  Each chapter told a short story that explained each artifact that Hanna found.  Like when she was pursuing the clue about the insect wing we got a short story that went back in history to explain where the wing came from.  I found some of these stories gripping and I couldn’t wait to finish them and others felt like they were dragging on.

I know that this is supposed to imitate real life so of course not everything would be explained but the book left me wanting more.  I wanted to know what happened in between each short story.  Where did the Haggadah go from Father Vistorni’s hands?  How did the deaf-mute boy end up bartering away his copy of the images when we last saw him safely ensconced with his family?  Where did Zahra go?

All in all even with the slow parts I would recommend this book.

Posted in 4 Star Books, Books, Historical Fiction

8 Responses

  1. Ladytink_534

    It does sound like a neat story. I think I remember hearing about this little book that Brooks based her story around.

  2. J. Kaye

    I am such an ADD reader. I tend to avoid reviews that include the phrase “slow parts”. Another person recommended this book and I really had that feeling that you just confirmed. ;)

  3. dsuzuki

    LOL. I noticed I have this problem with slow parts recently with books that are separated into these mini sections. I had the same problem with Eat, Pray, Love when reading the India section.

  4. Fern

    I thought the idea of the plot was interesting, but the actual story fell short of my expectations. The details of Jewish life interweaved into the story really annoyed me, because they’re often not accurate and uniformly paint Jews in a negative light. What was the point, for example, of throwing out the “fact” that many poor Jews who moved to Venice sold their children into prostitution? I haven’t been able to find any reliable source that confirms this is true, and I can’t figure out how it possibly improved the story (which would permit creative license).

  5. dsuzuki

    Too be honest I don’t know much about Jewish life or their history so I can’t really comment on that. Most of what I know is just from books like this one, The Book Thief, etc.

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