Holli's Reviews > People of the Book

People of the Book by Geraldine  Brooks
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Oct 10, 11

bookshelves: book-group, coffee-club, historical-fiction
Read in September, 2010

This is a great book to read for Banned Books Week 2010 (Sept. 26-Oct. 3)--especially with all the current hoopla over building the "Ground Zero Mosque," (which is neither a mosque, nor is it on ground zero). The epigraph of the novel says it all, "There, where one burns books, one in the end burns men."--Henrich Heine.

This is the kind of book I love. I can read it quickly, just for the joy of a good story, or I can go further, "googling" the historic events and names that I don't know for a deeper understanding. Since this was a selection for our book discussion group and I am the leader of the discussion, I chose the latter reading style, and found myself wandering around inside this novel for days while I learned a lot about the different historical periods.

Brooks is a top notch researcher and, while the novel never lifted me into a literary swoon over the beauty of its language, her weaving together of fact and story kept me turning the pages. I think she did a masterful job of covering so many time periods and creating so many believable characters.

Most importantly of all, Brooks accomplishes the important work of bringing the Sarajevo Haggadah to our attention. (Be sure to get hold of a copy of her article in the Dec. 3, 2007 issue of The New Yorker--your library should have a copy.) The fact that this little Jewish prayer book has survived repeated incidents of religious persecution and ethnic cleansing down through the centuries is both depressing (that we humans keep making the same mistakes over and over again) and hopeful (that there are always those who are courageous enough to stand up against such persecution).

People who really get the message of this book will realize that building a Muslim community center two blocks from Ground Zero -- around the corner from the Glad Tidings Tabernacle and up the street from the Christian Science Reading Room--is just how it should be. And that trying to stop such a building from going up is not that much different from saying that Jews can only live in ghettos and that African Americans can't eat lunch at the Woolworth counter.
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