Wednesday, 27 April 2011
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
Synopsis: Hanna, a book conservationist, is hired to complete some restorative work on a Haggadah, an ancient Jewish text, in late 1990s war-torn Sarajevo. We follow Hanna as she finds clues about the past of the book and Brooks allows the reader to see the meaning of these clues. Covering the expulsion of Sephardi Jews from Spain, the Spanish Inquisition, Tito's freedom fighters and Catholic Venice, the book has a long historical sweep and covers many eras.
I was really impressed with this book, with the writing, the content, the research that had clearly gone into it and the characters. Brooks managed to suck me in to all of the different time periods and characters without making anything feel disjointed or abrupt. My personal favourite was the section where the book is in danger of being burned under Papal Inquisition and it falls to a Catholic to save it.
In fact, both Muslim and Christian characters did as much to save the book as Jewish ones, and one of the messages of the book seemed to be multi-faith tolerance. In her afterword, Brooks explains that these sections were actually based on the real life history of the Haggadah, and I found that pretty inspiring. We hear so much about different religions hating each other that it's always nice to find a story of people going beyond religion and putting differences aside.
The characters were all well written and vivid. Hanna was probably my least favourite as she felt a bit like an 'everyman', without many defining characteristics of her own. The characters from the historical sections were far more interesting - like Lola, a Jewish teenager turned rebel freedom fighter turned undercover Muslim and a Rabbi in Venice with a secret gambling habit. The real strength of the historical sections is that Brooks gave us enough hints to suggest that life had gone on before and after; like she was telling a part of a continual tale rather than making up stand-alone events. I think that's really difficult for a writer to do.
When I was looking at the reviews for this book on Amazon, lots of people complained that Hanna never got to find out all that the reader did. But for me, this was one of the strengths of the book as it would be impossible for her to work all of that out from the clues without some kind of paranormal interference, which would ruin the credibility of the book.
Verdict: Would definitely recommend this one.
Score: 5 out of 5
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A friend recommended this one to me a year or so ago and I still have not gotten around to it. Thanks for bringing it back on my radar! I've heard nothing but good things about it!ReplyDelete
I have heard of this but didn't know much about it- very nice review!Sounds like an interesting and also inspiring read.ReplyDelete
Multi faith tolerance: great message. Lord I wish more people would get on that.ReplyDelete
Also, the research that goes into pieces with historical accuracy always impresses me. What a daunting task to do & do well.
Geraldine Brooks is one of my favourite authors, and I think this is the one I've enjoyed the most. I loved the device of the things Hanna finds and the tales they belong to, in fact I liked those parts best of the novel. I agree with you, how could Hanna know what the reader discovers? That would be too weird IMO. I'm really looking forward to reading Caleb's Crossing soon.ReplyDelete
Yep, this is one of my favorites as well, and like mummazappa said, Geraldine Brooks is also one of my favorite authors as well. This one really swept me away and I can't wait to read Caleb's Crossing, which I just got in the mail the other day from a giveaway!ReplyDelete
I still have Year of Wonders on my TBR shelf, but the more I hear about this author the more I think I may be wanting to make more room for her on my bookshelf. People of the Book sounds wonderful.ReplyDelete
@Lisa, Bookspersonally - it's a really good read, I would definitely recommend it.ReplyDelete
@Coffe and a Book Chick - I will be looking out for more by Geraldine Brooks, as this is the first book of hers I have read. Her non-fiction sounds just as good as her fiction, too.
I had this one on my radar for awhile and then I read a few bad reviews and decided it may not be for me. It sounds like I need to rethink that.ReplyDelete
Thanks for stepping by on my blog for my review! I love how we both picked up on the multi-faith and acceptance theme!!! :DReplyDelete
Juli @ Universe in Words
Me again XD I just posted an interview with Geraldine Brooks, thought you might be interested!!
Juli @ Universe in Words
BTW, I've been looking through your reviews and you've reviewed so many interesting books!!!!
I agree with you on the point about Hanna not knowing all that the omnipresent reader was able to learn about the book - it just would not have been a realistic outcome. And also, since Hanna was not that special, she would not have been entirely deserving of all that knowledge.ReplyDelete
Well written, fabulous fiction with an entrancing premise. Highly recommended to those who enjoy a good read. Cannot wait to read another book by this author.ReplyDelete
Irene (Ad Wizards)