People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

There’s been a good bit of publicity about Geraldine Brooks’ People of the Book, but I enjoyed it so People much I feel compelled to add my comments.  It’s a wonderful book that reminds me somewhat of Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, probably because some of the locations are the same, there’s a strong female character, a mysterious book, etc.

Rare book expert Hannah Heath is hired to conserve (NOT repair!) a famous illuminated Jewish haggadah, or prayer book.  During her work, she discovers a few tiny things in the binding – an insect wing, a white hair – and notices some stains on the pages.  She also notes that the book probably had clasps at one time.

Hannah has access through friends and work contacts to a lot of expertise and high-tech equipment that is used to determine what her findings can tell her about the book and where it has been.  She gets enough information to speculate; the reader actually meets the people who created, owned, or carried the book.  Chapters about Hannah and her quest are interspersed with chapters about a young Jewish girl in Sarajevo in 1940; a Catholic priest in Venice in 1609; a doctor in Vienna in 1894; Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Tarragona in 1492; a Moorish slave in Seville in 1480.  All these characters are fully developed and multi-dimensional, with good qualities and human failings.  Their stories are exciting.

Hannah’s life is not without drama or mystery, either.  Her travels and experiences while researching the book and a shocking revelation from her mother, a famous surgeon, add even more pleasure to an already exceptional book reading experience.  Don’t miss this one.

(Sherrie Antonowicz, Administration)

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