11 January 2010

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

Flap Copy: "In 1996, a rare book expert is offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of a mysterious, beautifully illuminated Hebrew manuscript created in fifteenth-century Spain and recently saved from destruction during the shelling of Sarajevo's libraries. When Hanna Heath, a caustic Aussie loner with a passion for her work, discovers a series of tiny artifacts in the book's ancient binding - an insect-wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair - she begins to unlock the mysteries of the book's eventful past and to uncover the dramatic stories of those who created it and those who risked everything to protect it."

This wonderful book captivated me from start to finish. A work of fiction, it tracks the journey of the Sarajevo Haggadah through time and around the globe. Brooks presents the book's possible past as a series of narratives, each told from a different perspective and a different place in time; she personalizes this truly remarkable work of art and history and gives life to the remarkable resilience of the book's creators and its protectors. As Hanna Heath dissects various artifacts found in the manuscript and wonders at their provenance she also discovers her own family history, making a personal journey that Brooks managed to keep realistic as well as compelling. She also captured the heart and spirit of the city of Sarajevo and its people in brief real-time glimpses throughout the narrative - if I hadn't already lived there and seen the Haggadah muself, this book would have made me consider that unlikely vacation. I highly recommend this book, 5 gold stars!

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