People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (2008, Penguin Books; 396 pages)
This is probably one of my favorite readings in the last year. It is a book written by Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks, and it is about the journey of a rare illuminated manuscript through centuries of exile and war.
The story is inspired by a true event. The author chose a first-person narration, that of the captive artist who creates the book’s original illuminations. What I love most in the book is the theme that cruises throughout the book: the Haggadah’s account of the liberation of the Jews. This is what the book is about according to the author:
“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.”
You can read a review of the book by Ursula K Le Guin here
Find this title in our catalog: People of the Book
Recommended by: Maite