Wednesday, October 22, 2008

BOOK: People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

Fiction or non-fiction? Genre?
fiction, historical fiction

What led you to pick up this book?
2008 release, recommended/lent by a friend

Summarize the plot, but don't give away the ending!
Pretty ambitious novel here, based very loosely on a real event. The Sarajevo haggadah was an illuminated manuscript, a Jewish codex, discovered in the 1990s in a museum in Sarajevo. The story behind this ancient, beautiful book is imagined in reverse order, while Hanna Heath, a book conservator is brought in to examine and preserve the edition. Her life, and the haggadah are traced in alternating chapters.

What did you like most about the book?
The religious aspect. Christians, Jews and Muslims have lived together around the Mediterranean for hundreds of years. All three types of people were involved in the protection and survival and production of the haggadah. It lets us know that there is hope for out mutual survival.

The map on the inside cover. I love when a book has a map to follow along with.

What did you like least?
Each new time period required new characters and new situations. It was like starting 4 new books within the one. They were all good and interesting, but the continuity was not there, except with Hannah, who was in alternating chapters.

Some of the historical details, well detailed and researched, were a bit dry.

Have you read any other books by this author? What did you think of those books? No, but I would like to try the Pulitzer winning March, and also Year of Wonders.

What did you think of the main character?
Hannah was a bit prickly, but she had her reasons. The haggadah itself had a resilience, and survival quality that was inspiring.

Any other particularly interesting characters?
Lots along the way, each era and locale had positive parts. There were Nazis, Inquisitors, syphilis, the Venice Carnival, some great moments in history.

Share a quote from the book:
I seldom notice quotes from books.

Share a favorite scene from the book.
Hmm, every time and region had its good points. I could see this as a movie, as the historical periods would be fascinating, and the scenery in Sarajevo, Venice, Seville, and Australia would be amazing. Plus, every period had a near miss for the haggadah as it was nearly lost or destroyed but for the saving action of brave somebody.

What about the ending?
I liked the ending, although it seemed like a lot happened. Actually by the end, I was really enjoying the book as all the history came together.

Which of your readers are most likely to enjoy this book? Why?
Fans of historical fiction, people interested in Jewish history, fans of the Mediterranean region. Anyone who likes a good read. It somewhat reminded me of Rutherford's book London, where the characters change each chapter and there is one unifying element.


  1. Nice summary of a good book :-) I liked the interfaith element as well, the way that all kinds of people came together in different ways over time to create and preserve the book.

  2. I like your question/answer format. Mind if I steal it? It's similar to mine, but with a few more questions that make the review more well-rounded.

  3. ooh, the comment box just changed! cool.

    marie - thanks, Brooks did a great job of showing all the relgions and the interactions.

    bookfool - fill yer boots! I think I copied the questions from Dewey originally. I really like the interview questions you do, too. I should get a few more questions, depending on the book, that I could use. Some books lend themselves to this format. Or sometimes I don't know what to write and these help a lot!

  4. I love when books have maps too! I recently read March, there were things I really liked about the book, and other aspects I didn't like so much. I have People of the Book on my list to read in 09!

  5. Great review! This one is one my TBR. I didn't care much for March, but I have a feeling I will like this one.


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