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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

People of the Book


Geraldine Brooks historical novel People of the Book traces the journey of a rare illuminated manuscript through centuries of exile and war. 

 Brooks, who won the Pulitzer Prize for her previous novel, “March,” has drawn her inspiration from the real Sarajevo Haggadah. As she explains in an afterword, little is known about this book, except that it has been saved from destruction on several occasions, twice by Muslims and once by a Roman Catholic priest. 
The story begins in 1996 when 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.  Hanna is able to trace the book’s journey from its salvation back to its creation. This makes for a fascinating story with lots of detective work.  Along the way we find art forgers and nationalist fanatics and even some romance.  What is the origin and the whole story behind the survival of this wonderful book? Lots of action will tell us along with some fascinating historical vignettes.   Perhaps a broader context and personalization of the main characters would help but then again history and historical fiction should  open our eyes and hearts to different times and places and touch our curiosity to want even more.
As a small footnote to the locale of much of this book, I am presently receiving physical therapy from a young woman who came to America as a child and war refugee during the Bosnian war. She is of Croatian ethnicity and fled Belgrade the Yugoslav and Serbian capitol during the bombing..... Small world indeed.
 

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@Barrie Summy

16 comments:

Anvilcloud said...

It looks like an interesting read.

Out on the prairie said...

I have been over there right before the war.Many people came to this area to work coal mines from Croatia.Just finished my last book by Homer Hickam and thought of you while reading his historical fiction around WW11. Some of the best I have read all year

DJan said...

I just went over to my library website and put a hold on this book. You have steered me towards many other interesting reads, and this one looks like one I will really enjoy. Thanks, TB! :-)

Arkansas Patti said...

Like Djan said, you never steer us towards a dull book and this sounds like I may come away a bit smarter about something I know too little about. My library doesn't have it but they promised to order it. Thanks.

Bubba Muntzer said...

And we've been at war continually since then, all kinds of bombing, invading, droning, sanctioning and starving, and according to an estimate I heard the other day killing between 1.5 and 2 million people. And leaving large swaths of that region in ruins. And several essentially ungoverned countries where factions we set against each other will fight to the death apparently.

In other words, good review!

Seriously, we might do well to inform ourselves about the places and people our government is massacring in a bipartisan manner by reading books like this. That's a fascinating tidbit about the therapist. One of the original refugees. Nice that we didn't turn our collective backs on her, as some want to do to the current crop of refugees we're creating and as they're doing all over Europe now. Thanks Sr T for this timely and interesting review.

Carla from The River said...

I will be checking this one out. Thank you for the review.

Barrie said...

What an interesting premise. I love how you review books I wouldn't think to pick up, but do post review. I hope your physical therapy is going well. Thanks for reviewing!

Ien in the Kootenays said...

Yes! I am a big fan of this writer, though her first novel, Year of wonders, remains my favourite. The desire of ordinary people caught in big events to do the decent thing runs like a thread through her work. I loved the fact that this precious work was saved by a Muslim. I just read The Secret Chord, an unflinching look at the life of the biblical Kind David, warts and all. Quite interesting.

Valerie said...

This book is a must read for me. Thanks for reviewing it.

Vicki said...

Presently, I am enjoying Stephen Goldblatt's The Swerve. Although a non-fiction history of how some Greek writings were preserved and about how so many more were destroyed, his point was how a single writer's work (De Rerum Natura by Lucretius ) affected the course of human history after hundreds of years of it being hidden away in the German Monks' library. Very interesting read.

Stacy said...

I loved this book and pretty much all of Brooks' novels. She does an amazing job of making history come to life.

Have you read March?

Jenn Jilks said...

An interesting book!!!

Emma Springfield said...

Looks like my kind of book.

Jenn Jilks said...

That will go on my list to read!

Sarah Laurence said...

Fine review of a fascinating book! I enjoyed your personal connection to the region as well. I reviewed it 6 years ago but not for the book review club: http://blog.sarahlaurence.com/2009/04/people-of-book-by-geraldine-brooks.html Sorry to be slow to visit - we've had limited wifi in Japan.

Sarah said...

Nice review. I have heard good things about this book (and author.) I will put it on my TBR list.