Inspired by a true story, People of the Book is a novel of sweeping historical grandeur and intimate emotional intensity by an acclaimed and beloved author. Called "a tour de force"by the San Francisco Chronicle, this ambitious, electrifying work traces the harrowing journey of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, a beautifully illuminated Hebrew manuscript created in 15th-century Spain.
When it falls to Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, to conserve this priceless work, the series of tiny artifacts she discovers in its ancient binding - an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair - only begin to unlock its deep mysteries and unexpectedly plunges Hanna into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics.
©2008 Geraldine Brooks; (P)2008 Penguin Audio
"Brooks, beginning where science leaves off, uses Hanna's finds as entry points to richly imagined historical landscapes peopled by the Haggadah's creators, protectors, and would-be destroyers....Their narratives alternate with Hanna's own, and the final, multilayered effect is complex and moving." (The New Yorker)
A wonderful book with a first-rate reader!!! I knew a little about the relationship of the Jews, Muslims, and Christians in the 15th through 20th Centuries, but this book deepened that understanding. The author did a great job of showing that, in the end, it is the quality of the person, and not their religion, that matters. The author made it vividly clear that governments (secular & religious) have always been willing to use Religion as a tool & weapon against each other, but that individuals can make a difference, though often at great personal cost. The author & reader lead the listener through the lives of the conservator working on the +500 year-old Hagada (spelling?), and then through pieces of the lives of those it touched thoughout its history. The people and their time periods were facinatingly drawn, and the reader did such a great job that the book was spell-binding. I often notice that the quality & personality of the reader can make or break an audiobook performance. This combination was magical.
My wife had read the book and urged me to listen to it. I was delighted to see it was available as an Audiobook, but was worried about the many member reviews that panned the narrator's accents. Despite the complaints, I barged ahead...and I'm glad that I did!! I thought this book was terrific! Wonderful, rich, engrossing, imaginative story, in a class by itself. I'll concede that SOME of the accents were problematic, but this multi-character, multi-accent, multcentury book was a tough assignment to narrate. Get past the flaws; enjoy the ride! If it had been allowed, I would have given this 4.5 stars!
I thought the reader did a fairly good job of depicting all the various accents represented by the diversity of characters from different parts of the world.
I did find myself wishing that more time had been spent on Hannah's life and experiences. The fictionalized account, of the life stories which take place surrounding the journey of the Sarajevo Haggadah, though, kept me in tune wondering what would happen next.
The author obviously did her homework and presents true facts about the book, such as its remarkable escape from harm during WWII and the more recent Yugoslavian civil war courtesy of conscientious Muslim librarians, interspersed with an imagined history of how it came to be in Sarajevo in the first place, centuries after its creation in medieval Spain. Fully realized present-day characters are engaging and the trips into the far past are riveting. Each historic episode is filled with fascinating, sometimes gruesome and even heartbreaking details about life in medieval Europe. Different enough view of Muslim-Jewish-Christian relationships from other books currently in vogue to be recommended. I liked the reader very much, she did different accents for all the characters and really made each one come alive.
The story was very good, but the narrator was pretty awful. As a perky little Aussie, she was just fine, but her ability to duplicate any other accent apparently doesn't exist. The Spaniards all sounded like lisping Boris Badenovs. The Italians all sounded like they'd just had "some-a-spicy meat-a-ball." I kept at it because of the story, but I can't recommend this version.
This is tough one to give a star rating to because if it was just based on the book, I'd give it a 4.5, but if just based on the narration, I'd give it a 1, so I've compromised and given it a 2. Everyone's comments in here were spot on- when the narrator is talking in her regular Australian accent, it's fine. But when she attempts to do the multitude of other accents which occur frequently throughout the book, she is just excrutiating. Most of her other characters sound drunk and slur their words, many sound similar, and none sound accurate. Also, when she tries to pronounce foreign words (even as the supposed native speaking character) she mangles them. The Hebrew pronunciations were so far off that it was hard to even recognize the words. It was so painful every time that she did I found myself wishing it would end.
Basically if I had it to do all over again, I'd buy the book and read it. Which is a real shame, because this is a great book, and with a better narrator it could have been a great audio book.
Knowledge is knowing the way. Wisdom is looking for an alternative, more interesting road to get there. Audiobooks are that road.
How sad that such a great book was narrated by an over the top, narrator. When she spoke in her regular aussie accent, she was just fine. I would have loved to listen to her read this book normally, but she chose to create these weird sounding characters. All kinds of weird. There was one that sounds like he has a hair stuck in his throat, another she gave a lisp to. There were a fair amount of hebrew or yiddish phrases and she did not have a clue how to pronounce any of them. It was a real botch job. As for the book, don't miss it. Go out and buy it. Read this one, it is full of excellent vignettes surrounding the story of The Sarajevo Haggadah, a book that Jews use to conduct their sedar on passover. The stories are historical and they are all set amongst a present day character named Hanna Heath, a manuscript conservator who is examining the book before it is to be put on display. Five star story, one star narrator.
This would have received four stars if the narrator had nixed the horrible accents. It was a great story, following one item like it did, tying the past and present. Sadly, I found myself cringing every time the narrator used an accent, but persevering because of the story.
Geraldine Brooks brilliantly portrays the lives of each character that has touched the hagada, giving insight into not only their feelings but beliefs, and showing that only through respecting every belief system can we grow together. Edwina Wren is fantastic with her mastery of the different accents and her understanding of the emotions the author is trying to portray. Fantastic!
This book was so well done, it held my attention, it was exciting and very sad. I held my breath, giggled and teared up. This was written by someone who has an understanding of what some will done to curb education and understanding one decade at a time. It shares how the truth will reveal itself, even during attempts to suppress it, threaten it, or even go so far as to eradicate it. It was difficult to hear what humanity has done to itself, but delightful to hear what it is capable of doing. All of this energy is over a book, it's own conception, and survival and what some people will do over the centuries to preserve it's own history, survival and story, and those who were directly involved in it. Read &/or listen to this book. It is wonderful
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