Several years ago, my older sister sent me an email that said, “Run, do not walk, to get this book and read it!”. It was PEOPLE OF THE BOOK by Geraldine Brooks. I got it from the library and read about the first 30 pages and thought “Snoozefest”. I could not get into it. I was puzzled because honestly whenever either of my sisters tell me they love a book I almost always love it, too.
So I saw the audiobook at the library a few weeks ago and thought, “Maybe I should give this one a try again.” I LOVED Brooks’ Pulitzer Prize-winning MARCH and also her CALEB’S CROSSING. I popped it in and started listening. After about an hour my main thought was:
WHAT WAS I THINKING??
This is an EXCELLENT book. I can only imagine I was highly distracted when I tried to read it before (that happens to me. Life gets in the way).
Here’s the Amazon summary (this book came out in 2008 and has just under 400 pages):
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.
Me again — I was fascinated with this book — the characters, the mystery, the history, the story. The writing, as with all of Brooks’ novels, was well-crafted. The audiobook version had 12 CD’s and was aptly narrated by Edwina Wren (who does a great job with accents!).
So, in the words of my sister, “Run, don’t walk, to get this book!”
Here’s a You Tube book trailer: