People of the Book

People of the Book

A Novel

Book - 2008
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In 1996, Hanna Heath, a young Australian book conservator is called to analyze the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, a priceless six-hundred-year-old Jewish prayer book that has been salvaged from a destroyed Bosnian library. When Hanna discovers a series of artifacts in the centuries' old, she unwittingly exposes an international cover up.
Publisher: New York, N.Y. : Viking, 2008.
ISBN: 9780670018215
Characteristics: 372 p. :,ill., map ;,25 cm.


From Library Staff

Slavomir Nov 30, 2010

This is a very good read. I have recommended it to two library staff in two different library systems and both enjoyed it. Another person I told about it loved reading it. This story of a book that is amazingly preserved over hundreds of years by people that did not survive is fascinating. Chapte... Read More »

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May 10, 2017

SCL library Monday afternoon bookclub - April 3, 2017
One of the members said everyone should read this book because we don't read about history enough. The history buffs really enjoyed it and they all agreed that the modern story (Hannah) was not as well done as the history. Some said that it was hard to get into and they would not have continued if it wasn't for bookclub. The group gave it 4 stars.

Mar 26, 2017

I liked this story, epic in its time span, as it searches out the history of a 500 year old Illuminated Jewish manuscript. Brooks imaginatively crafts the journey of a book conservationist who researches the little droppings in the old book, then uses each as a springboard for separate stories throughout the manuscript’s history.
I really resonated with this quote: "You’ve got a society where people tolerate difference … and then the need to demonize ‘the other’ rears up and smashes society. Inquisition, Nazis, extremist Serb nationalists … the book bears witness to all that." So sad the way this circle wearily repeats itself as evidenced in the daily news. An illuminating read.

Aug 26, 2016

A young Australian book conservator is tapped to work on a historic prayer book, a Jewish Haggadah, in Sarajevo at the end of the Bosnian conflict. Alternating chapters tell the story of the book’s creation and journeys from 1400s Spain to the time of her work.

I’d skipped this book when first published even though Brooks’ work is popular. It just kept coming up on ‘you’ll like’ suggestions. So, I’ve read it. While engaging at times it has the flaws all her work has for me. Is this a story or is it journalism? The ending stretched credibility.

jesking Apr 27, 2016

The plot was sheer genius! A book as a main character - the people who were a part of the book's life the plot! Genius! But writing a book in this way left the characters a little flat and if you did become attached, their place in the story was over quickly. Feel a little guilty saying I got a little bored about halfway through because the characters all went through some sort of horrid experience and I shouldn't have been bored. But I was. Took me a while to finish this book.

LPL_ShirleyB Oct 09, 2015

This beautiful and complex story features a strong-willed woman antique book conservationist working to uncover the origin of the Sarajevo Haggadah --an illuminated Jewish prayer book. The book survived centuries of greed, politics, and war.

Sep 19, 2014

recommended by Bronwen

Sep 10, 2014

I really liked it. Looking forward to future novels

The plot is strung together like a series of short stories, and as with that format, often there is an implication of complexity that is not spelled out. The short stories which tell how the found evidence, butterfly wing, hair, etc, always felt incomplete to me. There was no link to how the book might have travelled around Europe through the milenia. This is an interesting look into the science of book binding and preservation of old manuscripts but the protagonist and her conflicted relationship with her mother detract from the gravity of the subject and the tragedy of racism throughout the ages. Not an engaging read, but worth a quick browse because of its technical background.

CSil Jul 06, 2014

Picked this as my choice for one of my book clubs. had not read anything by geraldine brooks, thought of picking march since it won the pulitzer prize but decided that the group would like the story of the haggadah so went with people of the book. the group really liked it. while i am not a fan of historical fiction i liked the book as well. it is very well written and you learn a lot about the struggle of the Jews throughout the centuries. we all liked that the stories went back in time. i also found that as we discussed the book i liked it even more. each story stands on its own but then is interwoven in a very fascinating way as the mystery is solved. and the main character, hanna, is an unusual woman whose characteristics are very interesting.i highly recommend this book.

KCLSLibrarians Apr 11, 2014

A beautifully illuminated ancient Hebrew text is at the center of this fascinating detective story that ultimately plunges book expert Hannah Heath into the dangerous world of art forgers and political fanatics. From wine stains to insect wings Hannah traces the history of book all the way back to 1480 where she finds the true reasons that this particular text was so beautifully illustrated. A great read for historical fiction and mystery fans alike.

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Jun 05, 2013

BlueBee1560 thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

May 29, 2012

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Apr 09, 2017

One of the best books I have read this year.

Aug 25, 2012

Publishers Weekly

Reading Geraldine Brooks's remarkable debut novel, Year of Wonders, or more recently March, which won the Pulitzer Prize, it would be easy to forget that she grew up in Australia and worked as a journalist. Now in her dazzling new novel, People of the Book, Brooks allows both her native land and current events to play a larger role while still continuing to mine the historical material that speaks so ardently to her imagination. Late one night in the city of Sydney, Hanna Heath, a rare book conservator, gets a phone call. The Sarajevo Haggadah, which disappeared during the siege in 1992, has been found, and Hanna has been invited by the U.N. to report on its condition. Missing documents and art works (as Dan Brown and Lev Grossman, among others, have demonstrated) are endlessly appealing, and from this inviting premise Brooks spins her story in two directions. In the present, we follow the resolutely independent Hanna through her thrilling first encounter with the beautifully illustrated codex and her discovery of the tiny signs-a white hair, an insect wing, missing clasps, a drop of salt, a wine stain-that will help her to discover its provenance. Along with the book she also meets its savior, a Muslim librarian named Karaman. Their romance offers both predictable pleasures and genuine surprises, as does the other main relationship in Hanna's life: her fraught connection with her mother. In the other strand of the narrative we learn, moving backward through time, how the codex came to be lost and found, and made. From the opening section, set in Sarajevo in 1940, to the final section, set in Seville in 1480, these narratives show Brooks writing at her very best. With equal authority she depicts the struggles of a young girl to escape the Nazis, a duel of wits between an inquisitor and a rabbi living in the Venice ghetto, and a girl's passionate relationship with her mistress in a harem. Like the illustrations in the Haggadah, each of these sections transports the reader to a fully realized, vividly peopled world. And each gives a glimpse of both the long history of anti-Semitism and of the struggle of women toward the independence that Hanna, despite her mother's lectures, tends to take for granted. Brooks is too good a novelist to belabor her political messages, but her depiction of the Haggadah bringing together Jews, Christians and Muslims could not be more timely. Her gift for storytelling, happily, is timeless. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


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