Judith's Reviews > People of the Book

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
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's review
Jun 25, 2012

really liked it
Read from June 25 to July 03, 2012

Well-crafted story about a book that actually exists. The stories behind it, however, are mostly fiction. The primary character is Hanna Heath, rare book expert from Australia, who is hired to repair the "Sarajevo Haggadah" shortly after the Bosnian War ended in the 1990s.

Secondary characters are the subjects of interlaced chapters explaining different aspects of the book - its illustrations, the existence of a bit of blood on a page, the lack of an appropriate cover and clamps. For each mystery that Hanna discovers there is a chapter giving the answer. Of course Hanna is never privy to this information.

After she has left Sarajevo with the book satisfactorily repaired, Hanna returns to her work, but is interrupted a few years later, called on for another purpose. In the course of this visit to the book she discovers something off, and points it out. Her concerns are dismissed and become the basis for a period of self-doubt about her abilities, a state of mind easily achieved given that she has always been a disappointment to her remote physician-mother. Ultimately she has an opportunity to revisit the event and once again connect with a man she had begun to care for.

So the story is about Hanna but much of the book is about secondary characters from different times. I found the interruption of Hanna's story disconcerting and, while dips into different historical times can be interesting, I was simply irritated by them. I am not a fan of historical fiction because the history so often overpowers the characters, and I feel this is one of those cases. I liked Hanna but would have liked her more had I been able to spend more time with her.

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06/26/2012 page 156
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