People of the Book – Geraldine Brooks

People of the Book is a lovely story. At its heart is an appreciation of a sacred Jewish text and the sacrifices different people with differing religious beliefs have been prepared to go to to keep it safe over the centuries. It is a fictionalised history tracing the turbulent journey of an actual document, the Sarajevo Haggadah.

The story is told in alternating chapters. Hanna, a rare book restorer from Australia is invited to Bosnia for a precious viewing of the Haggadah which has surfaced after many years. While examining it, a mystery of sorts presents itself. Where has it been? What do the small clues she finds reveal about it’s history. Hanna follows these clues around Europe and calls on her contemporaries and mentors to help her along the way. Hers is the contemporary voice of the story and is balanced nicely with the historical chapters which trace the life of the Haggadah through the centuries, countries and wars. These historical chapters are thoroughly researched and each chapter is beautiful in its own right – introducing us to life in a different time and place.

While the style of the alternating chapters worked well, I liked the present day character and story of Hanna less than the historical parts – she was a little brash and over patriotic at times for me!

This is a huge story – not so much in the number of pages but what it covers. The edition I read had an interview with Geraldine Brooks at the back where she acknowledged the huge task it was and that it took several years on and off to complete. I guess all authors give a lot of themselves when writing a book but I could sense that especially with this book.

Lovely. Read for the Aussie Author, Bibliophilic and Support Your Local Library challenges.


21 responses to “People of the Book – Geraldine Brooks

  1. So glad to her that you liked this. I keep being drawn to it in book stores, though I think this is the first actual review of it I’ve read. It is now officially and firmly on the wish list.

    • Claire – I hope you like it – I’ll look out for your thoughts!

      It wasn’t perfect but I enjoyed it enough to pick up another of Geraldine Brooks’s books at the libarary recently – Nine Parts of Desire which is non fiction and looks a lot different.

  2. This really sounds great. I’ve been wanting to read it, but some other book always gets in the way it seems 🙂

    • Diane – it is like that isn’t it?! I’m very easily distracted myself so can totally relate. Best of luck for getting to it eventually..

  3. Hello!

    Sounds really interesting, and not an author I am familiar with.

    On a separate note I was just looking at your header and I realised it could have been taken from my Book shelf too! It seems we have a very similar taste! Particular favourite was Never Let Me Go- I loved it!

    Looking forward to your review of Cold Spring Harbour too.


    • The Book Shelf Project,

      Hello – thank you for your comments!

      I have to admit that my header is not from my own bookshelf unfortunately – its a photo of a Booker books exhibition I went to last year. I’ve heard lots of good things about Never Let Me Go – I really must read that one soon..

      I’m waiting for the right time to read Cold Spring Harbour. I read Revolutionary Road earlier in the year and am psyching myself up this next one! It’s due back at the libarary soon though so that’s a good incentive..

  4. I’ve had my eye on this book for awhile. Glad to see you enjoyed it.

  5. I enjoyed this for the subject matter but could not help but feel the prose was occasionally a little sterile and flat. Somehow, the amount of factual content (although fascinating) deflated the fictional components of the book. So mixed bag for me. But glad you enjoyed it.

    • Frances – I found there to be quite a contrast between the style of the alternating chapters and agree the historical content was quite lengthy. Thank you for your comment 0:)

  6. This one has been on my radar for a long time, but somehow it’s gotten eclipsed over time. Thanks for the reminder and a very thoughtful review.

    • Andi – Thank you. I think it must be one of those books that plenty of us have heard of but haven’t quite got to. I was the same. Hope you enjoy it, I’ll look out for your thoughts..

  7. I read this book a few months ago-I enjoyed it a lot-I liked learning about book restoration and the manuifacturing methods of old books-once and a while the historical sections did seem a bit long-great review

    • Mel – Thank you. I enjoyed the book restoration side of the story as well, something I know nothing about but what a wonderful way to make a living – combining history, travel and books!

  8. I finished reading this book a few weeks ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved how all the episodes from different time periods were interwoven and you could really trace the story of the book’s journey through time. I must get around to writing my review of it soon. Thank you for yours – I really enjoyed reading it!

    • Rebecca – Thank you! I look forward to your review as well. I normally shy away from anything too historical in novels but I really enjoyed this – the journey of the book and the little insights into the life of the people that helped shape it along the way was great wasn’t it?

  9. Will come back and read this as I’ve just started this book.

  10. I was given a copy last year, and it’s still on my nightstand. Sigh. So many books, so little time. Thanks for the nudge to push it up the TBR list.

    • Nathalie – Thank you and you’re welcome! I hope you enjoy it and I can very much relate to the so many books thing…
      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  11. Pingback: Caleb’s Crossing – Geraldine Brooks « A Book Sanctuary

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