This is an extraordinary history of a Jewish prayer book. As an archivist is repairing the book, she finds unexpected things in the binding: a granule of salt, a wine stain, a fragment of a butterfly wing. As she discovers these items, the reader sees the story of their introduction into the book. Unlike anything I've ever read, the images in this book are sharp and sometimes unbearable. Despite the horror, this is an amazing, beautiful, fabulous book. When my store asked its employees for their three best books of the decade, it was one of my picks. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"[A]n ingenuity equal to that standing behind her Pultizer Prize-winning March....[A] marvelously evocative journey backward in time..." Booklist (Starred Review)
"[A]n enthralling historical mystery....Rich suspense based on a true-life literary puzzle, from the Pulitzer Prize-winning Brooks." Kirkus Reviews
"Each story is engrossing and deftly woven into the narrative, though the telling is sometimes facile or cloying. Nevertheless, this latest from Pulitzer Prize winner Brooks is a good addition to most libraries and excellent for discussion groups." Library Journal
"Brooks demonstrates a gift for balancing research with a command of pacing and plot....Geraldine Brooks has...half-found and half-invented a swashbuckling book and, despite occasional quirks, woven a tale that's haunting and satisfying." The Los Angeles Times
"[A] sprawling historical work equal parts CSI, period piece and romance-among-the-ruins....This is exciting stuff...and Brooks does a good job moving the plot along....[A]n ambitious book, a pleasure to read, and wholly successful..." Minneapolis Star Tribune
"[I]ntense, gripping...a tour de force that delivers a reverberating lesson gleaned from history....In writing an immensely readable novel that fleshes out gaps in the historical record, Brooks has extended the reach of a story that bears recounting." San Francisco Chronicle
"Its accelerated suspense and twisty, sensational conclusion, though sure to please many readers, have a feature-film quality that undercuts somewhat the seriousness of the Haggadah story. It's a good try, but Brooks can't quite have it both ways." San Diego Union-Tribune
"Although People of the Book contains scads of beautiful writing, the overall work is uneven....Still, [it] is an ambitious effort filled with many fascinating historical details, characters and stories, and it's capable of casting a spell for many pages at a time." Rocky Mountain News
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of March comes this novel inspired by a true story that traces the journey of a rare illuminated manuscript through centuries of exile and war.
About the Author
Geraldine Brooks is the author of March, the recipient of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. She is also the author of Year of Wonders, Nine Parts of Desire, and Foreign Correspondence. Previously, Brooks was a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal in Bosnia, Somalia, and the Middle East. She lives with her husband, the author Tony Horwitz, and their son.