People of the Book: A Novel

People of the Book: A Novel

by Geraldine Brooks

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143115007
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/30/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 65,681
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.70(d)

About 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.

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"

Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION
Hanna Heath has cultivated a life of exquisite detachment. Raised by an aloof and often absent mother, she has eschewed any kind of deep emotional involvement. But—as an expert on rare books and an Australian whose nationality makes her the least controversial political choice to inspect a priceless Hebrew codex—Hanna is about to be plunged into a dangerous drama that will force her to confront both her past and the passions she has worked so hard to conceal.

It is 1996 when Hanna first flies to Sarajevo. The city’s peace is new and still tenuous, but the opportunity to inspect the famous Sarajevo Haggadah is a career maker that she cannot pass up. A lavishly illuminated medieval Hebrew text, this haggadah is an anomaly that has fascinated scholars for generations and its survival in war-torn Bosnia is hailed as “a symbol of the survival of Sarajevo’s multiethnic ideal.”

Initially put off by her armed U.N. escort and the intense scrutiny of the National Museum, where she is forced to perform her delicate work, Hanna is nonetheless mesmerized by the book’s astonishing beauty. She studies its inks and parchment and recovers a fragment of an insect wing, salt crystals, wine stains, and a single white hair from between the delicate pages. She also notes that the clumsily rebound book is missing its original clasps. Each discovery is a clue that offers to unlock a chapter of the haggadah’s mysterious history.

But Hanna becomes involved with more than the book during her time in Sarajevo. After she completes her initial documentation and repair work and leaves the city, she remains haunted by the few nights of intimacy she shared with Ozren Karaman, the Muslim librarian who braved enemy shelling to rescue the hagaddah. As she travels from Vienna to Boston and then to London in the hope of deciphering her scant evidence, Hanna fleshes out shadows of the book’s past. Simultaneously, Brooks reveals the gripping tale of survival behind each miniscule artifact.

During World War II, a young partisan is saved by the same Muslim who risks his life to protect the haggadah from the Nazis. In fin-de-siècle Vienna, a Jewish doctor unwittingly plays a role in the theft of the book’s clasps. In Inquisition-era Venice, a Catholic priest’s most damning secret spares the book from burning. In Tarragona in 1492, a poor scribe completes the text just days before the expulsion of Spain’s entire Jewish community. And in Seville in 1480, the unlikely artist paints a self-portrait into the Seder illustration.

Hanna is thrilled by her discoveries, little suspecting that her professional and personal worlds are about to come crashing down around her. When she returns to Sarajevo under very different circumstances, Hanna can no longer remain a dispassionate observer and finds that she has become one of the “people of the book” whose passions and sufferings, nobility and frailty, contribute to the hagaddah’s continuing history.

The author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning March and Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks has made a name for herself as one of the foremost novelists of our era. In People of the Book—inspired by the true story of the Sarajevo Haggadah—she brilliantly interweaves an epic historical saga of persecution and survival with a powerful modern-day tale of private betrayals and international intrigue.



ABOUT GERALDINE BROOKS

Geraldine Brooks is the author of Year of Wonders and the nonfiction works Nine Parts of Desire andForeign Correspondence. Previously, Brooks was a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, stationed in Bosnia, Somalia, and the Middle East.



A CONVERSATION WITH GERALDINE BROOKS
Q. Your previous two novels are set during Europe’s plague years and the American Civil War. Now, you’ve created an epic story about art and religious persecution. What is it that draws you to a particular subject, or a particular historical era?

I love to find stories from the past where we can know something, but not everything; where there is enough of a historical record to have left us with an intriguing factual scaffolding, but where there are also enough unknowable voids in that record to allow room for imagination to work.

Q. What do you think it is about the real Sarajevo Haggadah that has allowed it to survive the centuries?

It’s a fascinating question: Why did this little book always find its protectors when so many others did not? It is interesting to me that the book was created in a period—convivencia Spain—when diversity was tolerated, even somewhat celebrated, and that it found its way centuries later to a similar place, Sarajevo. So even when hateful forces arose in those societies and crushed the spirit of multiethnic, interfaith acceptance, there were those individuals who saw what was happening and acted to stop it in any way they could.

Q. Were you already working on People of the Book when March won the Pulitzer Prize? How does winning such a prestigious award affect your writing?

I was working on People of the Book even before I started to write March. I’d been struggling quite a bit with the World War II story: It’s such a picked-over period and I was looking for a backwater of the war that wouldn’t perhaps feel so familiar to readers. That search was leading to a lot of dead ends when I suddenly got the idea for March and it was so clear to me how to write that book that I just did it.

The “Pulitzer Surprise,” as my then-nine-year-old son so accurately dubbed it, affected my writing only in that it interrupted it for a while by drawing renewed attention to March. But after a few weeks of pleasant distraction I was back at my desk, alone in a room, simply doing what I’ve always done, which is trying to write as best I can, day after day.

Q. Book conservation is hardly a glamorous job, but Hanna’s framing narrative is every bit as action-packed and compelling as the stories in the hagaddah’s history. What inspired her creation?

Because I like to write with a first-person narrator, getting the voice of the book is everything to me. I’d struggled a lot with my first idea, which was to have the conservator be Bosnian. I love the way Sarajevans express themselves; it’s a kind of world-weary, mordant wit overlying an amazing ability to absorb and survive great suffering. But I wasn’t getting the voice and the book was stalled as a result. Then I suddenly thought, Well, why shouldn’t she be Australian? That’s a voice I can hear clearly. Hanna came alive in my head and as a result the contemporary story, which I’d originally thought of as merely a framing device for the stories from the past, became much more important.

Q. The scientific resources that Hanna employs to find out more about the book’s artifacts are really fascinating. How much of that is drawn from actual research and how much springs from your imagination?

I went to labs. I interviewed scientists and conservators and observed their work. But the book is fiction, not a technical treatise, so experts will be able to spot a place or two where I took some small liberties.

Q. The Jewish people have endured extraordinary trials. How much about this history did you know before writing the book?

Most of it. The whipsaw of Jewish history has fascinated me since I was in junior high.

Q. Who is your favorite character and why?

That’s like asking a parent to name a favorite child. Hanna became like a good mate, and I actually miss hanging out with her. But I feel a certain tenderness towards all of the characters, perhaps especially the most flawed ones.

Q. People of the Book is set in so many different eras. Was it a more difficult book to research and write than your previous novels?

There was definitely more to research, but it wasn’t difficult. I loved the various journeys—actual and intellectual—that it took me on. Seeing the domes and spires of Venice shimmering in the watery morning light; having the great privilege of meeting Servet Korkut, who supported her husband in resisting fascism; watching Andrea Pataki painstakingly take apart the real Sarajevo Haggadah—these are experiences of a lifetime.

Q. Will the book be published in Bosnia, and if so, what kind of reception do you anticipate?

I hope it will. I have no idea about the reception. It’s very presumptuous, what I do—meddling around in other people’s history. When I went back to Eyam, the plague village, I fully expected a faction of the townsfolk to want to have me clapped in the stocks. (They still have them there.) To my intense relief, the people I met had really embraced the book. I had the same feelings of trepidation when I went to read March in Concord, Massachusetts. I was delighted to be met at the reading by Louisa May Alcott (Jan Turnquist, director of the remarkable Orchard House Museum, in costume), who thanked me for being one of the very few who had tried to understand and appreciate her father. So I hope the people of Bosnia will forgive me for taking liberties with their history and see the book as a tribute from someone who was inspired by the remarkable spirit of Sarajevo.

Q. What are you working on now?

I’m just at the earliest stages of exploring an intriguing story set very close to home, on Martha’s Vineyard. It concerns people who lived on this island in 1666, one of my favorite years, and seems to have just the right mix of knowns and unknowables—a lovely incomplete scaffold to build on.



DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  • When Hanna implores Ozren to solicit a second opinion on Alia’s condition, he becomes angry and tells her, “Not every story has a happy ending.” (p. 37) To what extent do you believe that their perspectives on tragedy and death are cultural? To what extent are they personal?
  • Isak tells Mordechai, “At least the pigeon does no harm. The hawk lives at the expense of other creatures that dwell in the desert.” (p.50) If you were Lola, would you have left the safety of your known life and gone to Palestine? Is it better to live as a pigeon or a hawk? Or is there an alternative?
  • When Father Vistorni asks Rabbi Judah Ayreh to warn the printer that the Church disapproves of one of their recently published texts, Ayreh tells him, “better you do it than to have us so intellectually enslaved that we do it for you.” (p. 156) Do you agree or disagree with his argument? With the way he handled Vistorni’s request?
  • What was it, ultimately, that made Father Vistorini approve the haggadah? Since Brooks leaves this part of the story unclear, how do you imagine it made its way from his rooms to Sarajevo?
  • Several of the novel’s female characters lived in the pre-feminist era and certainly fared poorly at the hands of men. Does the fact that she was pushing for gender equality—not to mention saving lives—justify Sarah Heath’s poor parenting skills? Would women’s rights be where they are today if it weren’t for women like her?
  • Have you ever been in a position where your professional judgment has been called into question? How did you react?
  • Was Hanna being fair to suspect only Amitai of the theft? Do you think charges should have been pressed against the culprits?
  • How did Hanna change after discovering the truth about her father? Would the person she was before her mother’s accident have realized that she loved Ozren? Or risked the dangers involved in returning the codex?
  • There is an amazing array of “people of the book”—both base and noble—whose lifetimes span some remarkable periods in human history. Who is your favorite and why?

Customer Reviews

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People of the Book 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 344 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
BusyBookworm More than 1 year ago
People of the Book is a fascinating story about a beautiful, rare book which has survived centuries of threatened destruction only to be saved time and again by the people who have been captivated by it. The story's main character, Hanna, is a rare-book expert and conservationist who is called to Sarajevo to study the Sarajevo Haggadah and learn all she can about this brilliant masterpiece. In her examination of the book she finds several small, seemingly inconsequential clues as to where the book has been and whose lives it has touched. The author cleverly weaves together chapters dedicated to each clue, i.e. "The White Hair," with chapters of Hanna's modern-day struggles to unearth the stories associated with the clues all while discovering some of her own tragic family history. The characters of the book are well-developed and entirely believable. Hanna and her mother have a loveless, often caustic, relationship which becomes even more troubled when Hanna discovers secrets of her family history that her mother has kept from her all of her life. The mother-daughter dynamic is frustrating and sad, but realistic. The stories surrounding the clues Hanna finds in the Haggadah offer fascinating glimpses into the lives of those living in Italy, Bosnia and surrounding areas during various times of anti-Semitic waves of violence throughout the centuries from the late-1400s to World War II. For many readers, these brief glances into the past will open their eyes to a long, history of violence and hatred toward a people that is hard to understand, but necessary to remember. People of the Book was a thoroughly enjoyable read from beginning to end. It was very well written and incredibly intriguing. Often in books with more than one story line, one story will lack the ability to keep the reader just as enthralled as the parallel story. Such was not the case with People of the Book. Learning the stories of the people who unknowingly left clues in the Haggadah was just as engrossing as following Hanna as she discovered the mysteries of her own family history and what the Haggadah meant to her. People of the Book is recommended to anyone who enjoys being captivated by an excellent story and learning a bit of history at the same time.
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.
indygo88 on LibraryThing 3 days ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this one & loved Geraldine Brooks' writing style. The format of the book reminded me a lot of Susan Vreeland's "Girl in Hyacinth Blue", with a little bit of Jon Fasman's "The Geographer's Library" thrown in. All in all, a great mix of present and past with a little bit of mystery thrown in. Some readers may be put off by the attention to detail and slightly drawn-out story, but I felt engaged throughout and was sad to see the story end.
bohemiangirl35 on LibraryThing 3 days ago
This book is based on a true story.Hannah Heath, an Australian conservationist, is commissioned by the United Nations to restore the Sarajevo Haggadah, one of the rarest books in the world. As she touches up the illuminated religious text, she finds several artifacts within the pages - a butterfly wing, a hair, salt, a wine stain. Hannah researches these clues, and the reader goes back in time to explore how each of the items came to be in the book.The stories about the artifacts are told in reverse chronological order, leaving the reader to wonder until the end how the book came to be so beautifully illustrated in the first place and why a brown-skinned woman is featured in the illustrations.I don't generally like to read books about the holocaust because they are incredibly horrifying and sad (understatement). However, despite the monstrous behavior described in the flashback stories, they were so beautifully told that I was captivated. I actually liked those sections of the book much better than the modern parts where Hannah's petty disputes with her aloof and selfish mother irritated me.One reader on Amazon made a valid point that both Hannah's and Zahra's (the slave girl's) sections were told in the first person, while all the others were written in the third person. Hannah's shallow fights with her mother and casual sexual relationships could very well have been drawn out to contrast how far women have come - from a slave with little or no choice in her profession, lifestyle, relationships and sex life to two smart, sophisticated women with the ability to meet their own needs, satisfy most of their wants and the luxury to argue over trivial dramas.Edwina Wren does a fantastic job with narration. Although the book starts a little slow and ends a little oddly with an adventure scene that doesn't really fit the rest of the book, I really liked it.
ursula on LibraryThing 3 days ago
A quite entertaining look back at various bits of history through the travels of a Jewish book. The modern-day rare book expert Hanna Heath is the story the novel returns to after each of its jaunts into some part of the past journey of the book. Her story is at times intriguing, but overall sort of unsatisfying, as the past stories have much more resolution to them. It was definitely an interesting narrative device, if not always successful. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes historical fiction, though.
debs4jc on LibraryThing 3 days ago
Brooks masterfully weaves several vignettes together with a contemporary story--all centered around one remarkable manuscript: an illuminated Jewish Haggadah over 600 years old. Hannah Heath is an expert in the conservation of old and rare codexes (books), and her skills are called upon when the Haggadah is discovered in a Sarajevo museum. As she uncovers the books secrets, flashbacks take the reader to various time periods and the remarkable interactions that people had with the book. These are all extremely well captured stories from their various time periods with characters that jump off of the page and capture the heart with their struggles--whether they are trying to escape Nazi's or the Inquisition, or desert bandits. Hannah's own story is full of drams, but it is the historical parts of the books that really shone for me. And BTW, the audio version is fantastic, the narrator captured the many different accents ethnic voices required flawlessly. Two thumbs up!
michigantrumpet on LibraryThing 3 days ago
A lovely book -- perfect to start off the Lenten season with its ecumenical reflection on the connection/disconnection of the people of the three Abrahamic faiths throughout history. That people have reached across the spiritual divide with varying success throughout the years gives one hope in these present troubling times. Loved the literary device using a butterfly's wing, saltwater, a white hair, wine, etc. to frame the various fictionalized stories of the Sarajevo Haggadah. Nicely structured and enjoyable to read.
sharlene_w on LibraryThing 3 days ago
The story follows an illuminated Jewish haggadah from present day back through the hands that held it to the hands that created it centuries ago. Book was based on the Sarajevo Haggadah, but the author took poetic license changing some facts and, of course filling in fictitious details to flesh out the novel and make it interesting. I enjoyed the book--very much like the story of "The Red Violin", but more importantly, the book left me with a desire to learn more about the real people and places depicted in the book. Listened to in audio format.