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People of the Book

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  136,204 ratings  ·  12,332 reviews
The "complex and moving" (The New Yorker) novel by Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks follows a rare manuscript through centuries of exile and war.
Inspired by a true story, "People of the Book" is a novel of sweeping historical grandeur and intimate emotional intensity by an acclaimed and beloved author.
Called "a tour de force" by the San Francisco Chronicle, this am
Hardcover, 372 pages
Published October 1st 2008 by Viking Books (first published January 1st 2008)
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Nancy I think you should go back and read the book again. You may have been distracted by other things going on in your own life at the time. The book is ne…moreI think you should go back and read the book again. You may have been distracted by other things going on in your own life at the time. The book is neither stilted or unimaginative. In fact, I might argue it is the opposite on both. You owe yourself another read.(less)
Rayna Forman
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
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Jan 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
A Review of People of the Book
(or, Why I Hate the Kindle)

Brooks's novel is a fictionalized account of the real Sarajevo Haggadah, a Jewish religious text noteworthy for its inclusion of an illuminated manuscript and for its survival through turmoil and the hostility towards Jews that has erupted time and again over the centuries in Europe and Eastern Europe. The novel is told from the perspective of Hanna Heath, an expert in book restoration, who is called in to restore the text for display. Wh
This is an awful book.

I expected great things from Brooks - March is a book I treasure - but this novel is a third-rate Da Vinci code, written with about the same amount of skill.

The premise is captivating - a 500-year-old haggadah is found in Sarajevo in 1996, and the novel sets out to explore the book's journey across Europe in those intervening years. Along the way, the haggadah acts as an entry point into the tumult, crisis, and unspeakable violence experienced by Jewish communities across E
Jim Fonseca
Sep 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
[Revised, spoilers hidden, shelves added 5/26/22]

Most people who like books will enjoy a story about a “book detective” – a female Australian book curator/restorer who discovers many cultural and microscopic mysteries when she is hired to restore a Haggadah, a book of prayers used during the Jewish Passover Seder. The author takes us back in history to see explanations for these details that the restorer can only guess at.


As you might expect, it’s a tale of both beauty and horror ranging from t
Jan 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A tip from one of my daughter's teachers lead me to the works of Geraldine Brooks, a two time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for literature. Being the non-fiction connoisseur that I am, I first devoured her memoir Foreign Correspondence. Deciding not to limit myself to only one of her books, I chose People of the Book, her fictionalized history of the Sarajevo Haggadah.

Hanna Heath is a Sydney book conservator who has been chosen by the Sarajevo National Museum to rebind the city's famous Hagga
What I do is me, for that I came...

This is grand book. Impressive. Intriguing. Tragic. Beautiful. From beginning to the end.
I don't usually like books on war situations but this book received so many good comments and ratings from Goodreads I decided to go for it. I did not regret it.

Each chapter is a time jump, to and fro in time. And starts with a quote, like this one, page 329 in my book:
A white hair
Seville, 1480
My eyes seep sorrow; water skins with holes
- Abid bin al-Abras

Part of a review (
Maggie Stiefvater
I DO like how interested Brooks is in humans.
Jul 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
An exceptional novel about a rare book conservator from Australia who researches the Sarajevo Haggadda, an ancient Jewish prayer book.

Brooks uses the protagonist's research to tell the story of the book backwards from WWII to 1600s Venice to Moorish Spain. The modern conservators narrative binds the vignettes together.

A none too subtle vehicle to highlight the interwoven histories of Christians, Jews and Muslims - the People of the Book - the novel is also an allegory about learning itself and
Hannah Greendale
Jan 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
A Hebrew manuscript created in fifteenth-century Spain has been saved from the ruins of a bombed library. Hanna Heath, who specializes in the conservation of medieval documents, is hired to repair and preserve the ancient manuscript. Tiny artifacts found inside the manuscript lead Hanna on a quest to discover how the rare manuscript was created and who risked everything to ensure its safety for five hundred years.

The author capitalizes on Hanna's passion for her profession. Her work on the manu
Feb 06, 2008 rated it liked it
I try to avoid all things popular (e.g., I’ve never seen Star Wars or Titanic) because I know, after all the hype, I can only be disappointed. When it comes to books, though, I feel obligated to read what’s popular so I can participate somewhat intelligently in the conversation.

That being said, although I hoped Geraldine Brook’s People of the Book would live up to the buzz, I wasn’t too surprised when it did not. The book is good, but it is not call-up-all-my-friends-(or readers)-and-recommend-i
Heidi The Reader
The story of an extraordinary book and the people who surround it.

And I did not enjoy it.

My reaction to this one was a huge surprise. I adored Geraldine Brook's Year of Wonders and I thought this would be an easy hit for me.

I think the problem is fairly simple- never connected with the main character. I loved Anna from Year of Wonders. I couldn't stand Hanna.

The small details of her work that she found so absorbing, I didn't enjoy.

I didn't like how she treated people sometimes. I thought she see
Nov 10, 2018 rated it liked it
There's nothing bad about this but there's nothing exciting about it either. I'd describe it as assembly line fiction. A novel that is designed to be a crowd pleaser. It never strays from formulaic commercial boundaries. The story is well-plotted and researched. The prose is professional but never inspired. The characters are on the bland side, each one with a predictable problematical relationship. The author has won the Pulitzer prize so I was expecting something much braver and more literary. ...more
A new favourite! I love it when old stories sound right for their time, and Geraldine Brooks does that so well. This novel was inspired by the discovery of the real Sarajevo Haggadah, a book more than 700 years old, so Brooks had a lot of ground to cover and a lot of voices to invent.

Her central character (Hanna Heath, a rare book expert) says about herself:

“By linking research and imagination, sometimes I can think myself into the heads of the people who made the book. I can figure out who
Dorie  - Cats&Books :)
Oh how I love Geraldine Brooks! This book is I think her masterpiece, so incredibly well researched and detailed.

In 1996, Hanna Heath, an Australian rare book expert is offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, which has been rescued from Serb shelling during the Bosnian war. Priceless and Beautiful, the book is one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with images. When Hanna, a caustic loner with a passion for her work, discovers a
Apr 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
What a fantastic story. Don't be put off by the first bit when you meet Hanna, the main character: she is supposed to be kind of annoying. You end up loving her with a compassion that this author can magically instill in you for all of her characters, of which there are many. The book also spans many centuries and traverses many continents, so it's a bit complex. But wow: This account of the history of a little book takes you through the darkest hours of human history, including the Inquisition ...more
This is a wonderful story of a magical book, an illuminated manuscript begun in the 15th century and found in Sarajevo after the Bosnian War, a Jewish manuscript rescued by a Muslim librarian who could not bear to see such a treasure be destroyed.

Based on some fact and the author's talented recreation, we see the history of this religious piece over the years as some seek to destroy it and others work to save or embellish it. We move backward in time from the modern time to the Nazi era, to 19th
Elyse Walters
I could have sworn I wrote a review. I read this book the first week it was released....
Richard Derus
Jan 14, 2012 rated it liked it
Rating: 3* of five

This is the very first book about books I've ever read that left me hating people more than when I started it.

Hanna, what a terrible waste of a person. Sarah, her mother, my GOD what a cold, stoney bas-relief of a human being she was. Orzen, Werner, yechptui on all of 'em and the parts set in the past...! The Nazis, well, it's shootin' tuna in a 55-gallon oil drum (aka the Gulf of Mexico) to hate THEM, but the collaborators! On and on, back through the Western World's horrible,
Mar 03, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a sweeping work of historical fiction, with characters starting in Sarajevo in 1996 and then slowly going back 500 years into the past.

The story is framed around Hanna, a rare book expert from Australia who is called in to analyze a precious Jewish text that was recovered during the Bosnian war. As Hanna studies the ancient book, she finds clues about its history, such as wine stains, a white hair, and part of an insect's wing. Each chapter takes the reader farther back in time, and we
People of the Book was a magnificent work of historical fiction by Geraldine Brooks centering on the rare and beautifully illuminated priceless Hebrew manuscript, the Sarajevo Haggadah. Hannah Heath is an Australian expert on rare books who is tapped to fly to Sarajevo in 1996 to inspect the priceless Hebrew codex at a time when the peace in Sarajevo is new and tenous but she doesn't want to pass up the opportunity to inspect the famous Sarajevo Haggadah at the National Museum of Bosnia and Herz ...more
Lisa Vegan
This is a marvelous book. I really enjoyed this author’s Year of Wonders and I think I liked this book at least as much. This is skillful and enthralling storytelling that’s also thought provoking.

This book is one of the most skillful renderings of a book that goes back and forth in time that I’ve ever read. Ditto for the writing of a historical fiction account, especially one that has part of its history in the very recent past.

This is a historical fiction story about the Sarajevo Haggadah. (A
Jul 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-books
Geraldine Brook's latest is a treat for us librarians (as well as dedicated to us in the front!) as she traces the path of an ancient religious text that, although Jewish in origin, was saved and added to several times over by members of different religions and cultures throughout time. As usual, Brooks' prose is both incredibly readable and laudably literary, and her theme that the love of knowledge and books crosses all historical and cultural boundaries is well illustrated through her complex ...more
Cherisa B
Jun 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Geraldine Brooks’s People of the Book is the story of a rare illustrated manuscript, the (fictional) Sarajevo Haggadah, through the centuries. A modern book conservator is selected to rebind it, and as she carries out her assignment, she discovers its origins and how it has passed through history and the hands of those who have cared for it.

Beautifully done and remarkable in reminding us that books aren’t just things but can have true presence, beauty, and permanency, and that they can bear wit
Aug 22, 2022 rated it really liked it
I really enjoy Geraldine Brooks books. People of the Book is no exception. Her books are rich in researched history. Great strong characters. Story line that immediately pulls in the reader. My only issue is there are so many different characters. You get into one story line and it switches. In this case it is a dual time line. Just as I was finding my way it switched again to new characters. This book was about is about finding a Rare Ancient Prayer Book, Sarajevo Haggadda. The story went backw ...more
May 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
I buy a lot of books. It's sort of sad, given that I am supposed to be budgeting and have completely (okay, almost completely) stopped buying clothes, but books call to me. I figure you can buy a paperback for $10, or you can go to a movie for $10 - one gets you a couple of hours of entertainment in a confined space, one gets you hours of entertainment wherever you want them. So, anyway, I went into this book planning to love it. I even caved and bought the hardbound, so anxious was I to start. ...more
Joy D
Multiple timeline historical fiction based upon the Sarajevo Haggadah, an elaborately illustrated ancient Judaic text that had been saved in the past by two Muslims and a Catholic priest. It is unusual in featuring artwork, which was not common in Jewish texts of the time period. The modern story follows Australian book conservator Hanna Heath who, in 1996, is called upon to evaluate and restore the book. During the evaluation, she finds small pieces of evidence of the book’s 500-year history. S ...more
People of the Book is a stunningly beautiful book about another stunningly beautiful book. It fictionalizes the true story of the Sarajevo Haggadah, a unique, 500-year old version of a book read at Jewish Passover Seders. It illustrates the story of how and why Passover came to be. People of the Book looks at the fascinating story of the Haggadah's travels through the years and creates a story from them. All of the characters are fictional and some of the chapters are admittedly entirely fiction ...more
I adored this novel! It contained all the elements of my favorite contemporary fiction: impeccable historical research, geographic locales that are as strong as the characters, characters who are multi-dimensional & believable, a plot that weaves multiple threads and themes in good pace and with precision. With this, Brooks moves into my favorite authors column.
Mar 19, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2012
What is it that makes a book compelling?
This one, apparently, has all the necessary ingredients to make a novel difficult to forget.
I'd say it's historically well researched, it has masterly developed and believable characters and an interesting thread which holds all of them together.
"People of the book" is exactly that, the story of the different people who, through centuries and centuries, managed to create or to keep or to protect one of the most treasured books ever, an ancient Haggadah.
May 28, 2008 rated it it was ok
I only got through the first 50 pages on this one. I'll try her novel The Wonder Years, but I found the narrator just too whipsmart. Also, there was a line or two that made me groan outloud. When Hannah is sitting on a plane next to someone who removes mines, she says to herself something like: "I thought about making a borderline comment like, 'business booming, eh?'" Yuck! Also, she "seduces" a guy by licking his fingers at a restaurant. All I could think was, "Who really does that?" It made m ...more
Olive Fellows (abookolive)
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Australian-born Geraldine Brooks is an author and journalist who grew up in the Western suburbs of Sydney, and attended Bethlehem College Ashfield and the University of Sydney. She worked as a reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald for three years as a feature writer with a special interest in environmental issu

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