Ruth's Reviews > People of the Book

People of the Book by Geraldine  Brooks
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Jul 23, 09

bookshelves: fiction, book-club
Read in April, 2009

When Hanna Heath, an Australian rare book appraiser, is brought in to appraise the Sarajevo Haggadah, which suddenly reappeared after being missing for years, she is getting into more than she realized. As she unearths clues about the book's history from the damage done to it, the story flashs back in a series of inter-related vignettes, showing how this 500 year-old illuminated Jewish manuscript had survived a violent and precarious history. And even in Hanna's time, there are some who would do just about anything to get it...

The writing was lovely, though a tad more melancholy than I usually go for. Whether it was 1996 Sarajevo, WWII Bosnia, 1895 Vienna, 1605 Venice, Madrid during the Spanish Inquisition, or 1480 Seville, the author's writing really put you in that setting; the historical detail was superb, and I was never confused about whether I was in a flashback or not, which is occasionally a problem in stories like this. It was rather frustrating to me that all of the vignettes ended rather tragically; the only uplifting theme among them was that the book survived, as each of the successive possessors created or preserved the manuscript. Of them all, only Hanna and Osman had a chance at a happy ending, and even that wasn't clear to me; I can't see them staying together in the long run.

So, not my typical read. I like a happy ending, if possible. It is a surprisingly fast read, though, for such a heavy topic, and I found myself liking it, anyway.
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