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People of the Book: A Novel Kindle Edition
View our feature on Geraldine Books’s People of the Book.From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of March, the journey of a rare illuminated manuscript through centuries of exile and war
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 series of tiny artifacts in its ancient binding—an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair—she begins to unlock the book’s mysteries. The reader is ushered into an exquisitely detailed and atmospheric past, tracing the book’s journey from its salvation back to its creation.
In Bosnia during World War II, a Muslim risks his life to protect it from the Nazis. In the hedonistic salons of fin-de-siècle Vienna, the book becomes a pawn in the struggle against the city’s rising anti-Semitism. In inquisition-era Venice, a Catholic priest saves it from burning. In Barcelona in 1492, the scribe who wrote the text sees his family destroyed by the agonies of enforced exile. And in Seville in 1480, the reason for the Haggadah’s extraordinary illuminations is finally disclosed. Hanna’s investigation unexpectedly plunges her into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics. Her experiences will test her belief in herself and the man she has come to love.
Inspired by a true story, People of the Book is at once a novel of sweeping historical grandeur and intimate emotional intensity, an ambitious, electrifying work by an acclaimed and beloved author.
"There's romance between Brooks and the world, and her writing is as full of heart and curiosity as it is intelligence and judgement."
--The Boston Globe
"Intelligent, thoughtful, gracefully written and orginal. . .Brooks tells a believable and engaging story."
--The Washington Post
"Intense, gripping. . . People of the Book, like her Pulitzer Prize-winning previous novel March, is a tour de force that delivers a reverberating lesson gleaned from history. . . . It's a brilliant, innately suspenseful structure, and one that allows Brooks to show off her remarkable aptitude for assimilating research and conveying a wide range of settings. Also on full display is her keen sense of dramatic pacing."
--San Francisco Chronicle
"[A] marvelously intertwined narrative, with one strand tied to the contemporary world and the other leading us back into European history, into wars and inquisitions and family tragedies, all of this making up avidly narrated, powerfully emotional quest."
--The Dallas Morning News
"Richly imagined and at times almost unbearably exciting. . . . An ambitious book, a pleasure to read, and wholly successful in its attempt to give a sense of how miraculous, unlikely and ultimately binding the history of objects can be."
--Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B000YJ66SW
- Publisher : Penguin Books; 1st edition (January 1, 2008)
- Publication date : January 1, 2008
- Language : English
- File size : 3182 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 396 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #55,917 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Reviews with images
Top reviews from the United States
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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.
As with many New York Times Bestsellers, I am skeptical of their true merit. Not necessarily because these books aren't worthy of such titles, but rather because I always end up a little disappointed. I think I get disillusioned with what a "New York Times Bestseller" actually means in regards to the quality of the book. The "bestseller" title gives me high expectations for the book, but I should instead take it with a grain of salt given that it doesn't necessarily correlate with how much I will enjoy the book.
"People of the Book", as is apparent from the title, is the story of the multitude of people who were involved in the creation and/or safe-guarding of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah [a Jewish text].
As was mentioned in a previous review, I absolutely love historical fiction pieces that intertwine multiple perspectives and storylines into the main plot. I believe that this sort of writing style for historical fiction is the most effective, as long as the transitions from past to present are done effectively. "People of the Book" did an excellent job with this and I genuinely enjoyed when the book had me time travel to unknown times and places. I would go so far as to say that I was even disappointed when the book took you back to the "present" main plot line. I, unfortunately, felt that the main plot line took away from the main focus of the book: the Haggadah. Particularly due to the love story between two of the main characters; it took away from the rest of the novel, and was unnecessary in the context of this story. The side stories, on the other hand, were perfection. My personal favorite was the last side-tale in which the artist behind the beautiful illuminations of the Haggadah was revealed.
The construction of the plot line was artfully done, and I felt that the author did an excellent job in transitioning between the main plot line and the side stories. I particularly appreciated the chronological order she chose to take with these side narratives. In addition, Geraldine Brooks did not necessarily directly connect all the parts of the story together; she left a little mystery to it and gave just enough information for the reader to be able to discern it themselves.
I am glad that I was finally able to read this book, but in the realm of historical fiction novels, this was not one of my favorites. I just felt that the main plot line took away from the side narratives, and there were parts of the main storyline that seemed extraneous. However, the central themes of the book are important ones, and Geraldine Brooks highlights them at every occasion she gets. The main theme being that historical artifacts are central to our history and their importance should be recognized. Unlike us, they are able to survive time and tell their stories to future generations, if only we would listen.
This has the potential to be excellent, but instead was mediocre. Most characters were never completely fleshed out, and the few who were are completely unlikable. The main character, Hanna, made me want to reach through my Kindle and snatch her bald. She was the most obnoxious feminist of all time, and her political views were warped, in my opinion. Plus, she came across as anti-Semitic in her characterization.
I wish I had not wasted my time.
Top reviews from other countries
Geraldine Brooks is a good writer - her prose is easy to read, and she creates believable characters. Her novel 'Song of Solomon' is a great favourite of mine. I found this book less enthralling overall, due to its structure. The episodic nature of the plot makes it more like a series of linked short stories. I'm not a great fan of short stories, because you don't get the same emotional connection as you do with a longer form novel. And Brooks' great strength in 'Song of Solomon' was her characterisation and the extent to which I invested in her characters.
So despite being well written and each story having merit in its own right, I didn't find it powerful as a novel overall. The continuing story throughout - that of book restorer Hanna and her discoveries about her own past - did not grip me enough, I think because I did not like Hanna very much. I found the individual short stories relating the Book's history more interesting and engaging, but they weren't long enough. What you get is a history of the persecution of Jewish people throughout the second millennium in Europe. That is worth reading about - I was particularly interested in the historic anti-Semitism which I'd not known so much about. The Holocaust is well known of but I'd not appreciated what happened to Jewish people in Spain in the 15th century for example.
Overall this was an interesting novel that was well executed, but it just didn't engage me as a single piece of literature. If you are interested in Jewish history and if you like short stories, you will enjoy this novel.
This novel is one of my all-time favourite books and every time I re-read it (on a 2 yearly basis); I always find new nuances of detail or delight in a particular character or setting. The author throws all her considerable knowledge, journalistic experience and technical expertise into this marvellous novel and I think it's her best. And it's all the better for the fact that there really was such a rare book and this could be its story.
The story centres around a book restorer who uses trace particles left in the book by previous owners to try to uncover the life of the book. In the meantime, she also struggles to come to terms with her own identity. It's very cleverly written with each new discovery taking her closer and closer to the origins of how and why the Hadaggah was made. I am however giving this only 4 stars because parts of the plot are just too glib. It's not feasible that someone can just walk into some of the most secure facilities and get answers to their questions to their questions in hours or days, so it gets a bit wacky as does the whole plot about the heroines identity. However this is a very enjoyable book and makes me want to go to Sarajevo and see the real thing.