Elizabeth's Reviews > People of the Book

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
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's review
Jun 13, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction-historical
Read in June, 2010

Geraldine Brooks has done a masterful job of weaving the true story of the Sarajevo Haggadah with an epic saga--well researched for historical authenticity--of persecution, betrayal, and ultimately, survival.

The protagonist, Hanna Heath, is a world-class Australian expert on rare books with a good bit of dysfunction in her personal relationship with her mother that manifests itself in an aversion to emotional involvement. She is asked to inspect a priceless Hebrew codex, an exquisitely illustrated medieval Hebrew text that has mysteriously reappeared in war-torn Bosnia. As Hanna meticulously examines and explores the manuscript, she discovers a fragment of an insect wing, salt crystals, wine stains, and a single white hair between the pages. The original ornate and beautiful silver clasps are also missing.

The narrative becomes a historical detective story that fleshes out, in fiction, plausible explanations of the strange artifacts and the amazing existence of a book that survived with thousands of others were burned, first in the Spanish Inquisition, then by the Nazis in WWII.

Hanna's personal involvement with Ozren Karaman, the Muslim librarian, complicates and enriches the story, and two people whom she trusts implicitly create a delicious twist near the end.

This is a fascinating romp through history and a marvelous tribute to the author's amazing imagination and story-telling skills.

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