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People of the Book

A Novel
Narrated by: Edwina Wren
Length: 13 hrs and 53 mins
Categories: Fiction, Contemporary
4 out of 5 stars (1,981 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of March, the journey of a rare illuminated prayer book through centuries of war, destruction, theft, loss, and love.

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

Critic Reviews

"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)

What members say

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

tremendously done

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

16 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Amazing, fabulous, wonderful!!!

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.

49 of 51 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Philip
  • Falls Church, VA, United States
  • 06-28-09

Ignore the complaints of others

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!

41 of 45 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • KP
  • Oakland, CA
  • 05-09-12

It Grows on You...

I wasn't sure I'd like this book and was listening to it for my book club. I did love March by this author, and it turns out I loved this book, too.

I didn't love the book in the beginning, and I was thinking that it would be a collection of short stories about the history of the Sarajevo Haggadah that would keep me from being engaged in the overall story because of a lack of continuity. However, as the book went along, I found myself completely drawn in to the story of how the book was created so that there actually was a lot of continuity to the overall story, and I wanted to know more and keep reading.

I liked the way the 5 ???stories??? of the people and the book go backwards chronologically. I thought that was a great way to structure it, and it really created suspense about the beginning of the Haggadah and who was responsible for it. At first I felt cheated at the way each ???story??? about the book ended when certain relevant details about the Haggadah were revealed. By that time I was into the characters, and I wanted to find out what happened to them. For example, I wanted to find out more about Ristorini and Jude. However, that feeling, too, was overcome by the ending when one of the characters from the ???stories??? does come back to the present day events in 2002 and also when the very first character from the earliest period of the book is revealed in a way that does give closure to that story.

The modern day part of the story, spanning the period from 1996 ??? 2002, involved the book???s conservator, Hannah Heath. It seemed a little far-fetched, but it was still engaging and compelling.

I wish I???d known more about the history of each of the periods from the book. This book would make a great teaching tool because it gets the reader so into each time period that he/she really wants to know more.

I also was just overwhelmed by the persecution of the Jews throughout history. I am used to reading stories of the Holocaust, but this book showed me in a way that I somehow hadn???t understood before (although I suppose I DID know) that Jews have been so unfairly treated for centuries.

In the end, the book???s theme is that the world is full of wonderful diversity, and people at their best can get along and show such strength and love for each other. However, it???s been the fate of the world that there is always someone who is being persecuted so we are locked in eternal struggle. The Haggadah book and its journey through history seem to symbolize the spirit of survival and hope or love, which in the end survive beyond the evil of the world just like the Haggadah.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A 5-star read...

I was hesitant to buy this book because of the negative reviews regarding the narrator, but the subject interested me enough to take a chance. I'm glad I did -- in no way did Ms. Wren's reading take away from the story. It's true that many of the characters sounded very similar, but Ms. Wren's natural voice felt 'velvety smooth' and, for me, contributed to my overall enjoyment of the book.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Illuminating novel about real Jewish holy book

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.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Derek
  • Norman, OK, United States
  • 03-07-09

interesting tale

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.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Skip the audio version; read the book...

I have never written an online review before but was encouraged to do so by my anger at the narrator for (almost) ruining such a wonderful book. Many people here have mentioned the accents--but add to this her total mispronunciation of the Hebrew. Good narrators find out how to pronounce unfamiliar words; it's not that hard to do. Brooks has written a wonderful book: Do yourself a favor: read it!

14 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Ella
  • toronto,, Ontario, Canada
  • 08-13-09


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.

31 of 39 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Claudette
  • Santa Fe, NM, United States
  • 03-19-09

Good book, weak reader

This is an intriguing and well-written story but the ridiculously bad accents of the reader are a serious distraction. The reader makes or breaks an audiobook and I'm afraid in this case she almost breaks - certainly fractures - it.

12 of 15 people found this review helpful