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.
©2008 Geraldine Brooks; (P)2008 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
"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." (Publishers Weekly)
This is a fabulous book. A wonderful thread of history from 15th-16th century North Africa, Spain, and Italy to 19th century Vienna to 20th century Bosnia and Australia. The story is intricate, and bounces around between time frames, but it is written well enough that you don't get lost (unless you don't listen for a week or two, then you may have to rewind). The characters are all interesting--almost too interesting, I wanted to hear more of each of their stories.
I would have given this book 5 stars, but the narration sometimes distracted from the story. I guess if you don't speak any Hebrew or German, the fact that she can't EVER get the accent on the right syllable, wouldn't bother you, but it drove me crazy. (BTW, it's HagGADdah, not HAGgaddag and it's the SheMA, not the SHEma--I mean, paleeze! Also, Liebchen is pronounced leeb-SHIN, not leeb-KIN.) I don't speak Serbo-Croatian, Spanish or Arabic, so if there were mistakes there I didn't notice them.
However, that caveat should not keep you from listening to this book. Overall, the narration is fine, just some minor things that had me correcting her mistakes out loud!
Executive Recruiter 20+ Years, father to six, spouse to one, grandfather to 4; specialist in Bipolar 2, Panic, Anxiety (OCD) & Addictions.
I read People of the Book several years ago - a borrowed book - and early last year listened to Geraldine's new novel Caleb's Crossing.
I have gone back to People of the Book as the story is utterly fascinating - now hearing the book all I can say is Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant.
The story is engaging. The narrator, Edwina Wren, adds deep colour to the story with carefully chosen accents and a light yet entrancing tone that enriches this favourite book of mine.
The story, what has happened to this Jewish tome over the last 500 years, a story told by the conservator and the characters of the Book's journey since it was prepared, examines an illuminated manuscript when Jewish lore insisted that illumination is not appropriate.
A rich tapestry, I write this before I have finished Part 2 - I just couldn't wait to encourage others to buy People of the Book.
Exceptional author and hugely entertaining narrator. This is one of those books where it is fair to say, "a must have".
While the book itself is excellent and well written, this narrator was not up to the reading of it. She needs a coach to work on accents and pronunciation. The only accent she does well is that of the educated Australian middle-class one, clearly because it is her natural one. It is distracting, so much so that it breaks the rhythm of the narrative and the suspension of disbelief.
This book could have been so much better. The format was promising and it is clearly well researched but the central character is irritating and superficial. I became engrossed in the historical fiction which was fascinating. I'd have given the story 4 stars if Brooks had left out the present day nonsense with it's angst and contrived love affair. As for the ending, well, don't get me started on that! The whole thing reads like a screenplay-hence the title of this review. The narration is mediocre. At times, Wren's depiction of the characters is irritating but it wasn't enough to stop me listening.
This would rate as one of my best loved books - audio or hardcopy - sumptuous!
I could not /cannot wait to recommend this book.
Delightful changes in time and character - with such perfect balance between fact and fiction.
I have to say she gave all characters depth and distinction - she is really outstanding in this book, given the range of nationalities.
I just want to spread the word - this is a fantastic work.
This book to me seemed to keep my interest to the end but it was a bit hard to keep hold of the different strings to the plot. It seemed to need a little tightening up.Certain parts of the process of book conservation was very illuminating and educational indeed. At times, I enjoyed those aspects of it rather than the story.
"Into One Grain, there come a hundred harvests
In a single heart is a whole world contained."
This beautiful verse opens one of the chapters of the amazing (hi)story about Sarajevo Haggadah written by Geraldine Brooks. The novel, though fictional, tells the enchanting story of one of the most important manuscripts of Jewish Mediaeval art of book making. The book, valued today at about 700 million US dollars, remains in Sarajevo's National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
It is a very good reading, particularly in the time of Passover - what was my case in 2009...
The story evolves in fascinating way - it is written in the reverse time order. We go with the narrator back into history, and at any moment we see how the PAST imprinted its mark on the PRESENT. And as we go deeper into the past, the more fascinated and mysterious the story is.
Beyond the narration, the message behind the book is about tolerance and cohabitations of all three great Abrahamic religions. The oldest story in the book comes from the famous Convivencia period in Spain's history - almost 800 years of relative tolerance between Muslims, Jews and Christians. The book tells also the story of 1492 expulsion of Jews from Spain and their migrations through Europe....
I must, however, admit that there is something in the book that puts some shadow on the authors's intentions or something I could call "good taste". I do not want to spoil it for the future readers, so I will stay mute about it. I must only say, that at some places of the book author went into a kind of storytelling that leaves a taste of distaste to say the least. I hope she (Brooks) did not go there because of the need of XXI century mass readers ....
I will not write what I have in mind, though.
If you want to know, ask me (find my blog "sopekmir" via google and write there). I will tell you in private....
"enthralling, a wonderful story"
I normally choose thrillers by writers such as Lee Child, Thomas Perry etc but I was intrigued by the story of this novel so decided to try it out. I loved it, thought the author's way of telling the story with flashbacks linked to particular discoveries made by her book conservator character was really good. She made me feel I was there with her characters, living through some harrowing experiences which made me both uncomfortable for the tormented and angry at the tormentors and reminded me how hateful humans can be to those of different races or beliefs. The narrator was good overall, easy to listen to although some of the accents she gave certain characters were slightly irritating. People of the Book was a change of style for me and one that I am very glad I chose to listen to. It was a detective story about the origins of and journeys undertaken by this Jewish book and I was fascinated by the afterword which related how Geraldine Brooks came to write this story of the Sarajevo Haggadah, based on fact and how much help she had from all sorts of experts. Riveting.
I loved this book, it was a fantastic listen.
"Enjoyable and worthwhile listen."
I loved the mixture of fact and fiction with the time slips to show the possible journey of the book, linking the findings of the restorer to events in the books history. This book made me aware of the struggles of people when they are diplaced from their homeland. On occasions the accents grated but not enough to stop me listening.
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