Stacy LeVine's Reviews > People of the Book

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
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Jul 11, 15

it was ok
Read in February, 2009


The protagonist is a rancid harpy about whom I don’t care a damn, and the mother’s more loathsome than the spawn! Brooks accomplishes nothing by opting for repugnant main characters. Moreover, the entire modern-day plot is offensively implausible (not to mention, totally derivative of ANGELS & DEMONS and THE DA VINCI CODE).

As to the historical fiction, I appreciate what Brooks is trying to do. Some of what she comes up with is interesting enough. I actually quite dig the section set in Vienna during La Belle Époque. But the section set in Seville during La Convivencia is virtually unreadable. That entire swath of the novel is written with such apparently deliberate vagueness that I’m left unable to picture what’s being described. At all.

If the reader can’t conjure any mental image from the text, the novelist has failed. And the more vivid the mind movies fostered, the better the book.

That said, I vehemently recommend the article that inspired the novel, which Brooks published in the December 2007 issue of The New Yorker. Truly among the most moving works of feature writing I’ve yet read.

Brooks is, by trade, a reporter (and a good one). But she is not (as yet) a novelist. Perhaps she should stick to journalism and leave fiction to those more adept with character and evocative language.
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Stefanie Totally agree about this book, but think it is worth mentioning that I did really enjoy two of her other novels: "Caleb's Crossing", and "Year of Wonders". The tendency towards somewhat rambling narrative was still in an issue to some extent, but if you can get past that aspect, the story in each case was straight forward and engaging. I do not know what happened with this book. I think maybe the author was just trying to tell too many stories at once.

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