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People of the Book

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  79,089 ratings  ·  8,387 reviews
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of March, the journey of a rare illuminated manuscript through centuries of exile and war

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 i
Hardcover, 372 pages
Published October 1st 2008 by Viking Adult (first published 2008)
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A Review of People of the Book
(or, Why I Hate the Kindle)

Brooks's novel is a fictionalized account of the real Sarajevo Haggadah, a Jewish religious text noteworthy for its inclusion of an illuminated manuscript and for its survival through turmoil and the hostility towards Jews that has erupted time and again over the centuries in Europe and Eastern Europe. The novel is told from the perspective of Hanna Heath, an expert in book restoration, who is called in to restore the text for display. Wh
This is an awful book.

I expected great things from Brooks - March is a book I treasure - but this novel is a third-rate Da Vinci code, written with about the same amount of skill.

The premise is captivating - a 500-year-old haggadah is found in Sarajevo in 1996, and the novel sets out to explore the book's journey across Europe in those intervening years. Along the way, the haggadah acts as an entry point into the tumult, crisis, and unspeakable violence experienced by Jewish communities across E
I try to avoid all things popular (e.g., I’ve never seen Star Wars or Titanic) because I know, after all the hype, I can only be disappointed. When it comes to books, though, I feel obligated to read what’s popular so I can participate somewhat intelligently in the conversation.

That being said, although I hoped Geraldine Brook’s People of the Book would live up to the buzz, I wasn’t too surprised when it did not. The book is good, but it is not call-up-all-my-friends-(or readers)-and-recommend-i
I buy a lot of books. It's sort of sad, given that I am supposed to be budgeting and have completely (okay, almost completely) stopped buying clothes, but books call to me. I figure you can buy a paperback for $10, or you can go to a movie for $10 - one gets you a couple of hours of entertainment in a confined space, one gets you hours of entertainment wherever you want them. So, anyway, I went into this book planning to love it. I even caved and bought the hardbound, so anxious was I to start. ...more
What a fantastic story. Don't be put off by the first bit when you meet Hanna, the main character: she is supposed to be kind of annoying. You end up loving her with a compassion that this author can magically instill in you for all of her characters, of which there are many. The book also spans many centuries and traverses many continents, so it's a bit complex. But wow: This account of the history of a little book takes you through the darkest hours of human history, including the Inquisition ...more
This is a wonderful story of a magical book, an illuminated manuscript begun in the 15th century and found in Sarajevo after the Bosnian War, a Jewish manuscript rescued by a Muslim librarian who could not bear to see such a treasure be destroyed.

Based on some fact and the author's talented recreation, we see the history of this religious piece over the years as some seek to destroy it and others work to save or embellish it. We move backward in time from the modern time to the Nazi era, to 19th
Geraldine Brook's latest is a treat for us librarians (as well as dedicated to us in the front!) as she traces the path of an ancient religious text that, although Jewish in origin, was saved and added to several times over by members of different religions and cultures throughout time. As usual, Brooks' prose is both incredibly readable and laudably literary, and her theme that the love of knowledge and books crosses all historical and cultural boundaries is well illustrated through her complex ...more
Stacy LeVine
SO DISAPPOINTING!!! The protagonist is a rancid bitch about whom I didn't care a damn, and her mother was even MORE distasteful! Absolutely nothing was accomplished by Brooks' choice to make those characters so off-putting. The entire modern-day plot was absurd and totally implausible (not to mention, totally derivative of Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code). As to the historical fiction aspect, I really appreciate what Brooks was trying to do. Some of what she came up with was really ver ...more
People of the Book is a stunningly beautiful book about another stunningly beautiful book. It fictionalizes the true story of the Sarajevo Haggadah, a unique, 500-year old version of a book read at Jewish Passover Seders. It illustrates the story of how and why Passover came to be. People of the Book looks at the fascinating story of the Haggadah's travels through the years and creates a story from them. All of the characters are fictional and some of the chapters are admittedly entirely fiction ...more
Lisa Vegan
This is a marvelous book. I really enjoyed this author’s Year of Wonders and I think I liked this book at least as much. This is skillful and enthralling storytelling that’s also thought provoking.

This book is one of the most skillful renderings of a book that goes back and forth in time that I’ve ever read. Ditto for the writing of a historical fiction account, especially one that has part of its history in the very recent past.

This is a historical fiction story about the Sarajevo Haggadah. (A
I only got through the first 50 pages on this one. I'll try her novel The Wonder Years, but I found the narrator just too whipsmart. Also, there was a line or two that made me groan outloud. When Hannah is sitting on a plane next to someone who removes mines, she says to herself something like: "I thought about making a borderline comment like, 'business booming, eh?'" Yuck! Also, she "seduces" a guy by licking his fingers at a restaurant. All I could think was, "Who really does that?" It made m ...more
I think an alternative title for this book could have been something like Women and Love or What Women Mean When They Talk About Love. Something like that. It was so beautiful in this delicate, fine-art way, and I was so surprised at this book’s beauty, that I feel totally inadequate in trying to describe my reaction to it. It is that type of beauty I feel when I think about the improbability of our bodies being alive or of Michelangelo’s ceiling in the Sistine Chapel or of microscopic images of ...more
This was my first foray into Geraldine Brooks, and I found the experience to be...well, interesting. The plot is centered on rare book conservator Hanna Heath as she investigates the story behind an ancient Jewish prayer book, or haggadah, that surfaces in war-torn Sarajevo during the 1990's. With only a few artifacts to work with, discovered within the book's crumbling and beautifully illustrated pages, Hanna attempts to piece together the book's perilous past and the narratives of those who tr ...more
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Rating: 3* of five

This is the very first book about books I've ever read that left me hating people more than when I started it.

Hanna, what a terrible waste of a person. Sarah, her mother, my GOD what a cold, stoney bas-relief of a human being she was. Orzen, Werner, yechptui on all of 'em and the parts set in the past...! The Nazis, well, it's shootin' tuna in a 55-gallon oil drum (aka the Gulf of Mexico) to hate THEM, but the collaborators! On and on, back through the Western World's horrible,
The Sarajevo Haggadah, an illuminated Hebrew manuscript, was saved during the Bosnian conflict by a Muslim librarian at the National Museum and placed in a bank vault. Hanna Heath, an Australian rare book specialist, is given the opportunity to inspect and conserve this beautiful book which dates back to 15th Century Spain. As she inspects it, she finds evidence that suggests the history of the Haggadah as it changes hands traveling from Spain to Sarajevo.

"People of the Book" moves forward in ti
Mar 28, 2008 April rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: history buffs, people interested in the history of books and bookmaking
Shelves: 2008
A book conservator is trying to find the human story behind a very rare haggadah as she is restoring it physically.

There really is a Sarajevo haggadah, and it really was saved during the bombing of Sarajevo in the 90s.

As someone who loves books, any books, and who appreciates the rare artistry and history of ancient books, I found the story to be very interesting.

I like how Brooks wove the history of the haggadah into the modern plot, going further and further back in time with each chapter.

Apr 25, 2009 jo rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: lovers of european history, books, and religious history
i am not a great fan of historical fiction, but this book is interesting and inventive and lovely and i'm so glad i read it. it follows the story of a particularly beautiful haggadah, the passover prayer book (am i saying this right?), through various centuries and incredible journeys, in alternating chapters in which you see a contemporary book curator trying to unveil the history of this amazing object, just resurfaced in sarajevo (it's 1996 and the war is raging), then jump back in history an ...more

This is one of the best novels I’ve read in years, and I recommend it whole-heartedly. It’s especially good for those fascinated by European or Jewish history. The central character is Hanna Heath, who is engaged in restoring an old and famous Haggadah. As she finds tiny clues to the book’s history, the author expands these into stories. She takes the Haggadah from the 20th century back to the 15th, from war in Sarajevo to the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492. The three European religions –
Kathleen Hulser
Bold to cast a book conservateur as heroine. While her character is a little thin and hard-boiled in pulpy style, the story line and historical time shifts are fascinating. The detective work on provenance and ownership reveals one of the great passions of museum work, and also testifies to the importance of the actual writing and books as object. Because the Sarajevo Haggadah that occupies the foreground is illuminated, the tale partakes of the painting who-dunnit. While the writing itself is n ...more
Finally finished People of the Book and I’m not sure what I have to say about it.

It’s rare for me to not have much to say about a book but I don’t think I do. This is a book that has been on my “to read” list long before I was a member of GR and even had a list to put it on. I think this is a book whose premise has always been attractive to me but as many times as I’ve seen it online or held it in my grasp at the bookstore I never brought it home to start the relationship. I’d read the first
I've had this book on my to-read list for a long time, 3 years or so, but it was one of those books that I didn't really think that I would ever really get to. A 'lifer'. I'd read Brooks' Year of Wonders back in 2008, and I liked it, but about 4 years has passed now, and the more I read in those intervening years, the more I came to feel like it wasn't really all that impressive, after all. I especially feel that way after finishing People of the Book. The writing in YOW just doesn't even hold a ...more
There was a book written a few years ago (I can't remember its name) where it followed a painting through its owners. I didn't really like the book and didn't finish it but as I started this one, I thought, "Oh, Brooks is following the same pattern."

In this book we are introduced to the Haggadah in Sarajevo. The book is a treasure, it was written sometime in the 16th century. It has illustrations that are the first of their kidn for a Jewish work. The book has somehow survived hundreds of years
I think I liked it better as a story told to me than I would have liked reading it. It's one of the first audio books I've ever read/experienced. I took it hiking with me and walking around the city and of course in the car to and from jobs. Walking with an audio book is the best. You just want to keep on going. Experiencing a narrator is fun too. I grew attached to Edwina Wren's voice and sometimes bothered by the accents she put on (which I know were necessary, helpful even, to keep characters ...more
Even when I really like a book I generally give it 4 stars because I know there are a few books out there that really make me say WOW. This is one of those books! For such a small book it is packed with interesting characters from a variety of time periods. I love historic fiction and this gives you a taste of several different points in history where this book traveled. Loved it!!
A fictionalization of the story of the Sarajevo Haggadah. A haggadah is a book used at the Passover seder, which retells the story of the Biblical Exodus. There were two strands of this story in the novel: one in modern-day; a scholar-cum-book restorer comes to Sarajevo to prepare this beautifully illuminated book for a museum exhibit. There are anomalies she finds in the book, which lead her to investigate the history and provenance of the book. Through the years, Christians, Jews, and Muslims ...more
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks was an interesting read.

During World War Two, a Bosnian Muslin risks his life to save the book from Nazis, it gets caught up in the intrigues of hedonistic nineteenth century Vienna, a Catholic Priest saves it from burning in the fires of the Inquisition. These stories and more make up the secret history of the priceless Haggadah-medieval Jewish prayer book recovered from the smouldering ruins of the war torn city.

The author alternates chapters set in 1996
Jenny (Reading Envy)
There are some parts of this book I really like. The Sarajevo Haggadah is an actual 600-year old illuminated Jewish manuscript, saved from looting and bombing by a Muslim archivist in 1996. This novel is an attempt by the author to explore and imagine the history of the book itself starting in the present day going backwards. Much of the historical detail is based on in-depth research of the manuscript, and the author has seen the manuscript and worked with the conservators of it, which is quite ...more
Some quotes & notes;

P.40 “I told him if I wanted to hear psychobabble, I could visit a shrink cheap on Medibank. I’m not casual about sex, far from it.. I’m actually very picky. I prefer the fit few to the mediocre masses. But I’m not big on wringing out other people’s soggy hankies, and If I wanted a partner, I’d Join a law firm. If I do choose to be with someone, I want it to stay light and fun. It gives me no pleasure, none at all, to hurt people’s feelings, especially not tragic cases li
A 4 star book. I like it. I like the story and I like the way the story is told. Back and forth from the present to the past. Step by step back in history although the story itself is fiction. The hagada must be a wonderful piece of medieval art.

Maybe the end of the book is a little bit over the top, but art theft happens and it's good to realize that even renowed scholars can fall in this trap. It's won't be the first time that an obsessed collector of rare manuscripts tries to steal valuable
I loved the view this book gave of the hardships the Jewish people have experienced over time. I realized that, sadly, God's chosen people have suffered again and again at the hands of oppressors. Also, I appreciated the sense of sharing of ideas that existed between Jews, Muslims and Christians at certain times in history. The wealth that comes from this mutual appreciation and edification is evident in the haggadah. Some bits of the book seemed a little forced or contrived. However, if we beli ...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Australian-born Geraldine Brooks is an author and journalist who grew up in the Western suburbs of Sydney, and attended Bethlehem College Ashfield and the University of Sydney. She worked as a reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald for three years as a feature writer with a special interest in environmental issu
More about Geraldine Brooks...
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“A book is more than the sum of its materials. It is an artifact of the human mind and hand.” 118 likes
“Book burnings. Always the forerunners. Heralds of the stake, the ovens, the mass graves.” 36 likes
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