Historical Fiction: People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks

4.0 out of 5 stars The illuminated Haggadah

People of the Book is not a page turner, a suspense novel, or an adventure story. Author Brooks has taken what little is known about the Sarajevo Haggadah, with a focus on a few tiny artifacts evidently left behind, inadvertently, by some of the people who handled it in the past. The skeleton of the story hangs upon the stabilization of the book by Hanna Heath, a book conservationist working in the 1990’s. As she discovers such minutia as a feather, a stain, and an insect wing, the author inserts compelling chapters in which their presence might be explained. It is these chapters, which begin during the second world war and gradually regress to the early medieval period, that make People the compelling historical novel that it is. The history of the Haggadah parallels that of the persecution of the Jews, but many of the major characters in each era are Christian or Muslim. In the end, it becomes clear that the production and preservation of a great religious work of art relies on the cooperative efforts of people of many faiths. This is a message that could not be more timely, and this is a book that is a pleasure to read and ponder.


2 thoughts on “Historical Fiction: People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks

  1. I liked your perspective and conclusion about this book. I reviewed it a little less positively on my blog (liked the historical sections, didn’t care much for the Hannah Heath character), but I have found that the book has stayed with me more than I would have expected. I believe it was the interplay among the religions that has made me reflect back on it. Thanks for putting that into words for me.

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