Carin's Reviews > People of the Book

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
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's review
Sep 02, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: international, women-authors, australia, book-club, history-based-fiction, european, middle-eastern
Recommended to Carin by: Barbara
Recommended for: fans of Possession by Byatt and Arcadia by Stoppard

My old boss recommended this book to me a couple of years ago, and I was pretty sure I'd like it and can't explain why it took me so long to get around to it. But I loved it! Such a layered, detailed, well-crafted story of - of all things - a book!

Hanna Heath is an Australian book restorer who has been called to Bosnia to work on the Sarajevo Haggadah, a 15th century book which is also a piece of art, which had been saved from the war by a Muslim - for the second time. In Hanna's restoration she notices tiny details such as a wine stain, a single white hair, some grains of salt, that reveal the history of the Haggadah. Hanna's story is intercut with flashbacks to seminal moments in the life of the book, such as when it was saved in WWII, when it was saved from the Inquisition, and when it was first created. Each of these stories is exciting, with unique characters and places (Vienna, Venice, Seville) showing how close this beautiful little book had come to destruction so many times. Meanwhile, Hanna is learning things about herself, her past, and her family that are unexpected.

Because the contemporary restorers and historians can only guess at what each of the clues implies about the history of the book, it is interesting to see those guesses compared to the reality of the flashbacks. In that way it reminded me of Possession by Byatt or Arcadia by Stoppard. It is literary, historical, multi-layered and multi-faceted. With so many stories and details going on, it is truly fascinating and hard to put down. In a way, the different glimpses into the book's past work as short stories, which normally are something I don't like, but interlocked short stories with a recurring framework is the way for short stories to work for me. Any lover of books and art and history will dive into this rich, decadent novel.

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Quotes Carin Liked

Geraldine Brooks
“A book is more than the sum of its materials. It is an artifact of the human mind and hand.”
Geraldine Brooks, People of the Book

Reading Progress

September 2, 2009 – Shelved
September 18, 2009 – Shelved as: international
December 15, 2009 – Shelved as: women-authors
December 30, 2009 – Shelved as: australia
April 15, 2011 – Started Reading
April 17, 2011 – Finished Reading
July 22, 2011 – Shelved as: book-club
May 25, 2012 – Shelved as: history-based-fiction
December 19, 2016 – Shelved as: european
December 19, 2016 – Shelved as: middle-eastern

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