Sunday, August 17, 2008

Book Review - People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

People of the Book
by Geraldine Brooks

Pulitzer Prize winner Brooks has created an historical-based and insightful story that will both entertain and enlighten and integrates a thought-provoking and emotional plot with imperfect, yet very human, characters.

Reminiscent of The Red Violin, People of the Book takes us on a journey that trails an illuminated Haggadah, or Hebrew prayer book, throughout history and tells the stories of the people involved in its creation and protection. This voyage takes us into the dungeons of the Church during the Spanish Inquisition, through the seizure of art and the censorship and burning of books by the Nazis in World War II and then to the salvation of the book from destruction during the unrest in Sarajevo. Each of these stories, and others, gives the reader a glimpse into the history of the acts of construction and preservation of a humble yet significant book.

Hanna Heath, a manuscript conservationist, is asked to preserve a prayer book by the museum in Bosnia that holds it. In doing so she uncovers a number of mundane yet historical artifacts that have lain buried in the vellum and crevices of the pages for hundreds of years. Each found item reveals a significant portion of the complete story. A piece of a butterfly wing, tiny fragments of sea salt, wine and blood spots and an unidentified white hair provide flashbacks to historical times and places that unravel the mysteries of the painstaking art of manufacturing and the struggle to protect this ancient manuscript. Each item traces a few moments in the lives of people associated with the book and uncovers a piece of the puzzle explaining its existence and survival. (The story of Lola and the people in her life is an exceptionally emotional one which will bring you to tears.)

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a mystery, intrigue, history or just a great story.

For more information concerning this book see Brooks’ Readers Guide here:

Five out of five stars

The Alternative
April 30th, 2008
Southeast Wisconsin

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