People of the Book

People of the Book

4.1 285
by Geraldine Brooks
     
 

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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

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Overview

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 ambitious, electrifying work traces the harrowing journey of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, a beautifully illuminated Hebrew manuscript created in fifteenth-century S pain. When it falls to Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, to conserve this priceless work, the series of tiny artifacts she discovers in its ancient binding-an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair-only begin to unlock its deep mysteries and unexpectedly plunges Hanna into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics.

Editorial Reviews

March, Geraldine Brooks's second novel, won her the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. People of the Book, her third novel, seems headed for comparable acclaim. Its plot revolves ever so gracefully around the true story of the Sarajevo Haggadah, a 14th-century Sephardic holy book that somehow survived centuries of hatred and destruction. Into this real-life epic tale of heroism and chance, Brooks has skillfully woven a historical fiction of uncanny force. In her hands, this improbable, even wondrous story of one document's survival becomes both a timely meditation on faiths in conflict and a tense historical thriller. Superb storytelling; a literary masterpiece tinged with the excitement of rediscovery.
Jonathan Yardley
The good news is that this new novel by the author of March, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2006, is intelligent, thoughtful, gracefully written and original. Brooks has built upon her experience as a correspondent in Bosnia for the Wall Street Journal to construct a story around a book—small, rare and very old—and the people into whose hands it had fallen over five centuries…Suffice it to say that it's a book that resides comfortably in a place we too often imagine to be a no-man's land between popular fiction and literature. Brooks tells a believable and engaging story about sympathetic but imperfect characters—"popular" fiction demands all of that—but she also does the business of literature, exploring serious themes and writing about them in handsome prose. She appears to be finding readers and admirers in growing numbers, and People of the Book no doubt will increase those numbers.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Reviewed by Margot Livesey

Reading Geraldine Brooks's remarkable debut novel, Year of Wonders, or more recently March, which won the Pulitzer Prize, it would be easy to forget that she grew up in Australia and worked as a journalist. Now in her dazzling new novel, People of the Book, Brooks allows both her native land and current events to play a larger role while still continuing to mine the historical material that speaks so ardently to her imagination. Late one night in the city of Sydney, Hanna Heath, a rare book conservator, gets a phone call. The Sarajevo Haggadah, which disappeared during the siege in 1992, has been found, and Hanna has been invited by the U.N. to report on its condition.

Missing documents and art works (as Dan Brown and Lev Grossman, among others, have demonstrated) are endlessly appealing, and from this inviting premise Brooks spins her story in two directions. In the present, we follow the resolutely independent Hanna through her thrilling first encounter with the beautifully illustrated codex and her discovery of the tiny signs-a white hair, an insect wing, missing clasps, a drop of salt, a wine stain-that will help her to discover its provenance. Along with the book she also meets its savior, a Muslim librarian named Karaman. Their romance offers both predictable pleasures and genuine surprises, as does the other main relationship in Hanna's life: her fraught connection with her mother.

In the other strand of the narrative we learn, moving backward through time, how the codex came to be lost and found, and made. From the opening section, set in Sarajevo in 1940, to the final section, set in Seville in 1480,these narratives show Brooks writing at her very best. With equal authority she depicts the struggles of a young girl to escape the Nazis, a duel of wits between an inquisitor and a rabbi living in the Venice ghetto, and a girl's passionate relationship with her mistress in a harem. Like the illustrations in the Haggadah, each of these sections transports the reader to a fully realized, vividly peopled world. And each gives a glimpse of both the long history of anti-Semitism and of the struggle of women toward the independence that Hanna, despite her mother's lectures, tends to take for granted.

Brooks is too good a novelist to belabor her political messages, but her depiction of the Haggadah bringing together Jews, Christians and Muslims could not be more timely. Her gift for storytelling, happily, is timeless.

Margot Livesey'sThe House on Fortune Street will be published by HarperCollins in May 2008.

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Rare because haggadahs are seldom illuminated and precious for the quality of those illustrations, the Sarajevo Haggadah has survived the siege of that city, saved by a Muslim who headed the library at the National Museum. Rare books conservator Hanna Heath, summoned from Sydney to Sarajevo to evaluate it, finds tiny clues-an insect's wing, a wine stain, a hair-that establish its provenance and lead into flashbacks about the book's history, showing how it survived the Spanish Inquisition, the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, and the Nazis and how it came to be created in the first place. Not the least of these stories is Hanna's own. Brooks, whose March won a Pulitzer Prize in 2006, convincingly re-creates several unfamiliar settings-Seville in 1480, Barcelona in 1492, Venice in 1609, Vienna in 1894, Yugoslavian resistance to German occupation, and Sarajevo in 1996. Reader Edwina Wren, faced with re-creating all these accents, sometimes defaults to one that's generically foreign. Some of the many characters could also have been a little more developed, but this is both a literary novel and a popular hit, one of those big, ambitious, impossibly erudite books that pursue hidden knowledge through the ages. Recommended.
—John Hiett

School Library Journal

Adult/High School -Hanna Heath, an Australian book conservationist, is thrilled to be chosen to work on the rare illuminated Haggadah created in Spain in the Middle Ages. The book had been protected in a museum in Sarajevo until 1994, when it was rescued from certain plunder during the Bosnian conflict and hidden in a bank vault by a Muslim librarian. Hanna is as eager to learn and preserve the mysterious history of the codex as she is to restore the manuscript. How did it come to be illustrated, a practice believed to have been forbidden by Jewish law? What is the meaning of the wine stain, the hair, the insect wing, and the salt crystals? The author uses these artifacts to weave a thrilling tale of the unusual creation of the Haggadah in Seville in 1480 and its dangerous journey to Tarragona, Venice, Vienna, and finally Sarajevo. It is a story of the Inquisition and wars, and the enlightenment or ignorance of the men and women who would save or destroy this brilliant treasure. Integrated into these compelling vignettes is Hanna's own story: her passion for her work, her unhappy relationship with her mother, and her bittersweet love affair. Sophisticated teens will appreciate Hanna's sarcastic, witty observations, which mask a vulnerable lack of confidence. The mystery of the codex and the forensic examinations are intriguing and will keep readers eagerly awaiting the next revelation. Inspired by the true story of the Sarajevo Haggadah, Brooks has imagined a thrilling mystery and a history that has deep ramifications in our own time.-Jackie Gropman, Chantilly Regional Library, Fairfax County, VA

Kirkus Reviews
From 1480 Seville to 1996 Sarajevo, a priceless scripture is chased by fanatics political and religious. Its recovery makes for an enthralling historical mystery. In Sydney, ace (and gorgeous) old-book conservator Hannah Heath gets a 2 a.m. phone call. She's summoned to Sarajevo to check out a 15th-century Spanish-made Haggadah, a codex gone missing in Bosnia during a 1992 siege. The document is a curiosity, its lavish illuminations appearing to violate age-old religious injunctions against any kind of illustration. Remarkably, it's Muslim museum librarian Ozren Karaman who rescued the Hebrew artifact from furious shelling. Questioning (and bedding) Ozren, Hannah examines the Haggadah binding and from clues embedded there-an insect's wings, wine stains, white hair-reconstructs the book's biography. And it's an epic. Chapter by chapter, each almost an independent story, the chronicle unwinds-of the book's changing hands from those of anti-Nazi partisans dreaming of departing for Palestine from war-torn Croatia, from schemers in 1894 Vienna, home, despite Freud and Mahler, of virulent anti-Semitism. Perhaps the best chapter takes place in 1609 Venice. There, not-so-grand Inquisitor Domenico Vistorini, a heretic hunter with a drinking problem, contends in theological disputation with brilliant rabbinical star Judah Aryeh. The two strike up an unlikely alliance to save the book, even while Vistorini at first blanches at its art-a beautiful depiction of the glowing sun, prophesying, the hysterical priest assumes, Galileo's heliocentric blasphemy. Tracing those illustrations back to their origin point, Hannah unkinks a series of fascinating conundrums-and learns, even more fiercely, to prizethe printed page. Rich suspense based on a true-life literary puzzle, from the Pulitzer Prize-winning Brooks (March, 2005, etc.). Agent: Kristine Dahl/ICM

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781602851252
Publisher:
Center Point Large Print
Publication date:
02/28/2008
Edition description:
Large Print Edition
Pages:
478
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.60(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Less flash and more substance than The Da Vinci Code . . . The stories of the Sarajevo Haggadah, both factual and fictional, are stirring testaments to the people of many faiths who risked all to save this priceless work."
- USA Today

"As full of heart and curiosity as it is intelligence and judgment."
-The Boston Globe

"Intelligent, thoughtful, gracefully written and original."
-Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post

"Erudite but suspenseful . . . one of the most popular and successful works of fiction in the New Year."
-Alan Cheuse, NPR / "All Things Considered"

Meet the Author

Geraldine Brooks is the author of four novels, the Pulitzer Prize-winning March and the international bestsellers Caleb's Crossing, People of the Book, and Year of Wonders. She has also written the acclaimed nonfiction works Nine Parts of Desire and Foreign Correspondence. Her most recent novel, Caleb's Crossing, was the winner of the New England Book Award for Fiction and the Christianity Today Book Award, and was a finalist for the Langum Prize in American Historical Fiction. Born and raised in Australia, she lives on Martha's Vineyard with her husband, the author Tony Horwitz.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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People of the Book 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 283 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1996, Sydney, Australian resident Hanna Heath receives a call from the UN as they want to use her rare book conservator expertise. Apparently the renowned Sarajevo Haggadah, thought destroyed during the Bosnian War, has been found. Harriet is euphoric as she knows the value of this incredible ancient Hebrew tome with its images.-------------- Although a loner whose only love is rare books, when Hanna meets the ¿savior¿ Muslim librarian Karaman, they are attracted to one another. Still it is the book that holds her enthralled as she begins to uncover other artifacts of the past buried inside the pages (white hair, insect wing, salt, and a wine stain) and items missing (lost fasteners). Each tells a unique story about who held the precious Sarajevo Haggadah.-------------------- PEOPLE OF THE BOOK is an interesting tale that uses the discoveries by Hannah to take the reader back in time to meet those who handled the ancient tome in various eras like 1940 Bosnia, 1480 Seville, and 1492 Barcelona, etc. Each entry provides a historical conflict between a person protecting the book and those wanting to defile the book. Throughout this superb fiction tale is the underlying message that the time for the Jews, Muslims and Christians to unite in peace is now not tomorrow as all have more in common than the differences that divide them.------------ Harriet Klausner
NatalieTahoe More than 1 year ago
I love it when a book is able to seamlessly & eloquently combine fiction and history, leaving you wondering where fiction ends and truth begins. As a voracious reader, I enjoy being able to delicately step through a story's pages & revel in the imagination of the writer, whilst learning a new nugget of actual history that sadly, didn't make any of my history classes in high school or college. People of the Book does just that. This is a treat beyond all compare, beauty of history & story within front and back covers. The Haggadah is a Jewish book that is read on the first night of Passover and tells the stories of enslavement, and the subsequent miracles performed by God which ultimately resulted in freedom. In People of the Book, Hannah Heath is a rare books expert from Australia who travels to battle-torn Sarajevo in 1996. Her task is to preserve the beautiful Sarajevo Haggadah that has just been uncovered after 100 years. This Haggadah, though, is very different both in color and in sketch -- odd that it has survived throughout the years, since its original creation date sometime in the 14th century in Spain would have been during a time when drawing a person and illuminating it as such, although clothed, was considered offensive. Somehow it has survived throughout the years from the Spanish Inquisition to the Holocaust. Piqued by this curiosity, & passionate about preservation, Hannah also finds several items that are encapsulated within the pages of the book, such as a red stain, or a white hair, or an insect wing, & these objects become the opportunity for the author to explain in whose hands this book may have fallen, and the significance they earned in history. We watch the book travel from Venice and to Vienna, & we learn the stories of the people who held the book, cared for the book, and saved the book, ultimately saving a critical piece of Jewish history. Although some of these sections are fictionalized, the story of the Sarajevo Haggadah sends the message to the reader that it has become even more than just the colorful drawings and the binding of it, but about the people of the book, the people who fought and died for this incredible piece of history. I found this refreshing & moving, & I was struck by the significance of a book that is of such beauty and importance to history. It made me wonder who really were the people that protected it through hundreds of years? Geraldine Brooks writes each character & scene in such a fluid manner, moments depicted with such heartbreak, such horror, and yet with hope. It moved quickly for me & it wasn't long before I finished. When I closed the book, I felt regret that I had never learned of this subject and felt that it was a duty of mine to learn more on such an important topic. Reading People of the Book has made my visits to the museum a much different experience, awareness more profoundly etched within me, as I look at an object on display-in whose hands did this significant artifact fall, how did this manage to survive time and human ignorance to get to this museum behind protected glass, for me to view? And on my list of places to visit, I will add Sarajevo no matter how battle-torn, simply to be able to visit with the amazing Sarajevo Haggadah, where it is on permanent display.
Inqblot66 More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be a really interesting piece of historical fiction. However, all of the gratuitous sex and Ms. Brooks social politics made a potential good read a preachy outlet for her world view. I still give it three stars because the historical fiction pieces were well thought out.
SAM1954 More than 1 year ago
I found this book so compelling that I could not put it down. The story is based on a real book -- the Sarajevo Haggadah. But it so much more than a story of the survival of a particular book. It is in essence the story of survival of people. Not just the Jews, who are popularly known as the "people of the book," but of humanity in general. It is a book of hope -- that as long as good people exist AND take a stand the world will endure.

I also must say that Geraldine Brooks continues to impress me as an author. This now make three of her novels that I have read and I did not realize until I was reading the author bio prior to book club that she had written the other two (Year of Wonder and March). This is a tribute to Ms. Brooks skill as a writer. She writes so well and is versatile as well. There are too few modern writers that I can say continue to surprise me with their works and the surprise is good. Even when I disagree with her approach (I hated March at first) she makes me think and consider my prejudices. Long may she write and continue to surprise and please with great plots and literate prose.
Annibebe More than 1 year ago
What more could a book lover ask for but a history of a book and all the people that ever loved it, protected it, and created it. I highly recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A beatiful cover. No discerible plot and terrible storyline structure. First we are in a museum studying books then all of a sudden in Nazi Germany the story then evolved to a troubled family member. The storyline is all over the place without an organization towards a plot. Since I am a person that enjoys reading, I cannot remember the last time I did not finish a book. The storyline was so erratic and unfufilling, I earnestly tried to keep reading and reached the middle of the book. At that time I came to the realization it was no longer worth my time or effort to continue. I closed the book and do not intend upon picking it up again.
Kate_Sullivan More than 1 year ago
An interesting trip back through the centuries involving the creation and preservation of a Jewish haggadah. The critical point being that this precious book was saved time and time again by those of a different faith. The one word that I will take away from this book forever is "Convivencia" meaning "co-existence." A time in Spain when Catholics, Muslims and Jews lived in relative peace. I pray for Convivencia around the world today!
Lint More than 1 year ago
A lot going on in this one- drama, mystery,surprises and an opportunity to learn about history,culture and human nature.
jpeb More than 1 year ago
I want to start by saying I loved the Year of Wonders, it was one of the best stories I ever read. This was also well written but not as genuine as Wonders. I am tired of female characters who are just a little too cool, hate their mothers and don't need anyone. That said Hanna is interesting and the details of her work are explained in detail but I enjoyed learning about book conservation to a point. I found it a bit difficult to follow at times but loved the old stories and how it all tied in. This is a story of the injustices against the Jews throughout history and Brooks makes sure the Jewish characters are also the ones with character.
fitz12383 More than 1 year ago
Man, I love big, fat books in which I can totally get lost. And this book, spanning multiple countries over 500 years, is the ultimate saga covering art, religious persecution, book conservation, and more. I know that the length of the book can seem intimidating, but readers who are interested in these themes will not be sorry they read it. Interspersed throughout Hanna's narrative in 1996 Sarajevo are the stories of the various people throughout history who were in some way connected with the survival of the ancient Haggadah. Each period we visit in the book's history corresponds with a fragment or small object found by Hanna's conservation efforts of the ancient book. On the journey, readers will encounter war, discrimination, prejudice, and tradition that lasts for centuries. The Hagaddah in the book is in fact based on a real object, the Sarajevo Hagaddah, written around 1314 in Spain.
NomdeplumeAZ More than 1 year ago
Did not like the main character. Seemed ambigous in her love life. History of the book is fascinating. But,plot was not carried along by weak characterization of the main person.
srmom More than 1 year ago
It was very interesting to see facts intertwined with fiction as Geraldine Brooks took us on a tour of the Sarajevo Haggadah. Her perspectives of the events during these different periods of history were intriguing.
emmi331 More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this tale of a Hebrew sacred text dating back to the 15th century. The book is unique because not only did it survive the Inquisition, but it contains gorgeous illuminated illustrations more typical of those in Catholic devotional books. How did this happen? The mystery is slowly unraveled, starting with the book's more recent history and moving deeper into the past until its origins in Spain are revealed.
This can make it occasionally confusing, since most sagas of this type start at the beginning. But the reader is rewarded in the end! Alternating chapters tell the story of Hanna, a rare book conservator in the current era, who becomes involved with the ancient volume and finds both betrayal and love as a result.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Excellent audio book! Great narrator! One of the best ever, right up there with The DaVinci Code and Shadow of the Wind! A must for unabridged listening devotees!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Inspired by her experiences as a journalist in Sarajevo, Geraldine Brooks breathes life into the history of a rare illustrated Hebrew manuscript, the Sarajevo Haggadah. People of the Book spans centuries and continents to follow the guardians of the Haggadah as they flee war and persecution, often with little but the clothes on their back and their precious artifact. Muslims, Catholics, Jews and atheists take their turns defending the art, literature and culture encompassed in the small, fragile volume. The religions that set The People of the Book apart have their common roots in the pictures and stories in the Haggadah. Every event in the novel resonates with our news today, as cultural treasures, individuals and ethnic groups are being destroyed by the same ancient divisions and hatreds, and the same greed for power and wealth that endangered the book and its keepers over hundreds of years. A story of manuscript conservation and scientific inquiry which could easily be dry and boring vibrates with energy and life in this unforgettable novel. The people of the book are fascinating characters living in interesting times and their lives are relevant to ours, their choices and decisions speak to the greatest issues of our times.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a lovely read! The characters are beautifully drawn and the plot engaging. As I neared the end of the book, I found myself slowing down because I did not want to finish it! I have read Ms. Brooks' other forays into fiction. This is my favorite! Highly recommended!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wow, I just turned the last page and I'm digging way back to try and remember a more enjoyable read. Geraldine Brooks proves that illumination can be done with more than just brushes and ink. So very nice to have discovered and read dow this marvelous book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book and the wonderful characters and stories that the author created to describe the history of 'the book'. I also loved the way the book brought out the possibility of societies in which Christians, Jews, and Muslims not only live together peacefully but share art and culture.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
not the best but nice change of pace I read it quick and wanted to know what was next.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a book that we read for our Book Group. I was fascintated about the tales of this book being handed from place to place in history. I heartily recommend it. And I liked the ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She walked in, hands in her back pockets, and waited.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed People of the Book. It was very interesting. The idea of being able to follow the Book throughout history, is what drew me in. The main character's job was restoring old books and manuscripts. The reader was able to become part of the story by following through the centuries and the people who cared for The Book. Evey nationality and religion were involved in keeping the book safe. 1GMAof3