Thursday, June 20, 2013

Dusting Off: People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

Haven't done a fiction book in a while, so here's a review from a few years back, originally published on Goodreads here, of a book that I really liked.  (Actually, I've liked just about everything I've read by Geraldine Brooks, including Year of Wonders, Nine Parts of Desire, and March.)


This fascinating book covers a wide swath of time periods, characters, and locales. The descriptions of the process of book conservation, including the different types of parchment and dyes and book binding, were incredibly detailed and interesting.

The story of the Sarajevo Haggadah, a sacred Jewish text, was more moving than I expected, from a talented Muslim girl enslaved in Seville in 1480, to the horror of the Spanish Inquisition in 1492 and the vile anti-Semitism and book burning of Venice in 1609. I really enjoyed the section set in Vienna in 1894 since I lived in Vienna for a short time and actually knew several of the sites mentioned. 

Interspersed with these historical scenes were the narratives of the book's rescue and restoration in Sarajevo in 1996 during the tragedy of the war there, as well as the personal story of Hanna, the book expert who did the restoration. The sections flowed between time periods very smoothly with each small detail Hanna discovered illuminating another part of the incredible story of the haggadah and moving her own story forward as well.

As with her other books, I was impressed with the depth of detail and research that Ms. Brooks invested in her writing. I was almost sick at some of the descriptions of the tortures used during the Spanish Inquisition, but found myself in tears over one character's story of loss during the war in Sarajevo. She made each separate story not only come alive in itself, but sync together perfectly so that they all seemed a part of a single story as well.


People of the Book
by Geraldine Brooks
ISBN: 9780670018215
Buy it from Amazon here: (paperback, ebook)
Find it at a local independent bookseller.
Look it up on Goodreads.
Check it out at your local library (find the nearest one here).

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