Lois's Reviews > People of the Book

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
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's review
Jun 06, 2012

really liked it

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Lois On the whole, I found this book fascinating and enjoyable. It's about Hanna, a young Australian book conservator who after the Bosnian War is invited to inspect and restore the famous Sarajevo Haggadah. A 15th century illuminated manuscript, it is unique in Judaism and extremely precious. Embedded in its binding, she finds an insect wing, a wine (and blood) stain, some salt crystals and a white hair. Each of these artifacts leads to a story in the manuscript's history, from 15th century Spain through Venice and Vienna and finally Sarajevo in World War II. Each period is described in exquisite detail with great feeling and drama as the Jews are persecuted through the centuries. The historical characters are finely drawn. This is the most compelling part of the book. Told in alternating chapters, Hanna's personal story and her relationships are not so interesting, especially the entirely gratuitous section about her father and his family. It was as if Brooks had all these intriguing ideas and couldn't bear to leave any of them out. But I'm very glad I read it - the story of this priceless book and the people who made and protected it was marvelous. It was inspired by the true stories of two Muslim scholars who did indeed save the precious Jewish manuscript (the first smuggled it out under the nose of a Nazi general and the second, at the risk of his own life, saved it from the Serb shelling of the National Museum in Sarajevo)

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