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Showing 1-10 of 792 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 1,160 reviews
on November 10, 2015
People of the Book: A NovelWonderful story! Not very deep or developed characters, and not an unknown format - the plot moves back and forth from the present to various historical times when a book, which is actually the protagonist of the story, plays an important role in peoples' lives. This book, the Sarajevo Haggadah, actually exists, but the author gives it a very creative history and invents a myriad of characters and stories that are involved in transferring the book from here to there, each leaving a small sign or mark within its bindings and pages. What is interesting is that the (fictional) history of the book is told only to the reader, while the character who identifies all the clues of the book's journey through the centuries has no way of knowing how the specific findings she uncovers (a few grains of salt, an old blood stain, and more) came to be in the book. While the story surrounds a Jewish text, and clearly it is tied to Jewish history, it's a universal story. An intriguing yet easy read. Highly recommend it.
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on October 24, 2016
The best test of a good read--to me--is the number of questions with which the book leaves me, and how my mind and body respond to the ending chapter. For this book, the overriding question sitting on my soul is: How can I go on without these characters in my immediate life?
As for my cerebral and physical response to the book, well, this exquisitely written story literally knocked me out and as I finished the last sentence, I could not stand. The characters surrounded me and I simply had to sit and wait until they lifted away and permitted me to re-enter reality. That's how powerful every character and story, for it is one story made of many, affected me upon the finish.
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on March 29, 2017
This book was very engaging, a bit hard to follow as it went back in time while switching between past and present. I might have enjoyed it more without the modern-day book restorer heroine. I really disliked the mother character--a shallow workaholic stereotype. But on the positive side, it was fascinating to follow the provenance of a rare and ancient book, to see the people who loved it and worked on it in action, albeit historically fictional.
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on July 14, 2016
I was fascinated to learn about this ancient Jewish book and see the struggles of European Jews from the eyes of those who were enduring it from the 15th century up to present day Bosnia. Great insight and great writing style of the author.
My two very serious criticisms are: This book needed a glossary. The author is a journalist and knows that the italicized words which are of foreign origin to the reader should be defined. In context, one could pretty well guess the meanings but a glossary would have added more authority to the book.
The other criticism is that Hanna, the main character of the book, was not believable. She needed to be middle aged to have accomplished all the professional titles and degrees and experience she would have needed for this role. Also, there was way too much attention paid to her personal life which distracted from the main point, that is, the journey of the book throughout history.
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on January 4, 2016
Loved this book. It arrested my attention and I really felt like I was there, experiencing what the characters did. It was fascinating to have each artifact (found with the ancient manuscript) analyzed and "hear" the story of the manuscript at that time in history and the people involved. I was reminded of Michner's "The Source". Truly enjoyable historic novel that describes events and people over a long period of time, as the book travels through history and through different places in the world. Look forward to reading more from this author.
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on January 2, 2017
This book was recommended to me several years ago and I didn't get around to reading it until recently. So glad that I did! It was a good read -- hard to put down, in fact, but it had some real depth to it as well. In the course of the story, we learn about religious persecution and how it damages both the persecuted and the persecutors. These portions of the book were panful to read. The book also includes some description of religious tolerance, however, and the positive effects of that on the lives of all. I found it especially appropriate for the current time and the specter of religious intolerance looming. There are lots of different characters in this book as well as different historical periods. Ms. Brooks made me care about all of them. Her writing drew me into each period and provided a greater understanding of each.
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on July 10, 2017
Almost anyone can write a book, but to write one of this depth, who of us wordsmiths have not felt the longing. It isn't perfect--no mere fiction ever is--but flying on these wings, it didn't matter; all that mattered was the journey gliding and swooping on graceful, rich words that took me to mental and emotional places I'd never been, with insights into characters and professions I've not met before with just the right amount of detail to make it all come alive, sophistication without artifice, universality without sentimentality. Beautiful. Memorable. Meaningful.
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on August 3, 2016
People of the Book is a fictionalized account of the people associated with perilous journeys of the Sarajevo Haggadah; an ancient Jewish manuscript renowned for its stunning and intricate illuminations. From Moorish Spain to Venice during the Inquisition, to late 19th century Vienna the story skips from caretaker to caretaker as people of all faiths work to preserve the Jewish Passover prayer book.

In modern days the Haggadah is thought destroyed, so many are astonished when reappears in Bosnia. Dr. Hanna Heath, a skilled conservator, is entrusted with preparing the book for museum display and has just a short while to discover all she can about its past. Collecting tiny artifacts from among the pages, Heath captures tiny glimpses into the books journey of centuries and how, through the efforts of strangers of many faiths, it has survived the ravages of time and human history.

The story is presented in reverse chronological form with alternate chapters about the modern conservator Hanna and the caretakers and producers of the Haggadah. The novel introduces some fascinating characters a gambling Rabbi and a drunken censor for the inquisition are two of the best. The descriptions of the book, the times and even the gambling obsession of the Rabbi are very moving.
There has been an enormous amount of careful research done by the author, which has paid well. As well as being a historical novel Brooks introduces mystery; tense thrilling sections and even graphic sex into the story.

I suspect the author has covered too much. Hanna’s complicated relationship with her mother was remote from a lot of the story of the Haggadah. As an Australian I found Hanna’s Australian character overdone and dated. Australians today generally don’t use a lot of the language mentioned slammer for jail etc.

The author has a feminist liberal agenda, which she has promoted too strongly and none too subtly. Practically all the experts, head of departments that Hanna consults at Harvard, Vienna and elsewhere are women. The illustrator of the Haggadah turns out to be a woman and an African as well. The Haggadah, Muslims and Christians risked their lives to save a Jewish Prayer book. An earlier time in Spain before the fall of Granada was highlighted where Jews, Christians and Muslims lived in harmony.

With the above qualifications the People of the Book is a fascinating, informative and enjoyable read.
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on May 6, 2017
The chronology of this book is somewhat hard to follow. I actually had to review the book and read certain parts a second time to get a full understanding of what was going on. Almost too many stories in this one novel! It might have been helpful to read the "Afterword" first!! Yet, the writing is very good, and Brooks' imagination is wonderful. I learned much about the real Sarajevo Haggadah, and I learned much about the history of Judaism inter-twined with Islam in Europe over the last centuries.. I found this a worthwhile read. This is the first Brooks' novel I have read.
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on April 30, 2016
This book is such a glowing example of words making pictures. I had read this book and suggested it to my book club. One of the ladies said she had read it already. I responded, "Didn't you love the illustrations?"
"There weren't any illustrations in my book!"
I was so surprised by her answer than I decided to read it again. There were only vivid descriptions in the book. I only had illustrations in my mind!"
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