People Of The Book by Geraldine BrooksPeople Of The Book by Geraldine Brooks

People Of The Book

byGeraldine Brooks

Hardcover | April 4, 2013

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View our feature on Geraldine Books’s People of the Book.

From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of March, the journey of a rare illuminated manuscript through centuries of exile and war

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.

Inspired by a true story, People of the Book is at once a novel of sweeping historical grandeur and intimate emotional intensity, an ambitious, electrifying work by an acclaimed and beloved author.

Heather's Review

My very first Heather’s Pick – and still one of my favourite stories – was 'The Secret Book of Grazia Dei Rossi'. A love story between a poor young woman and a dashing Count, set against the backdrop of all that was happening in the time of the Medicis, the richly imagined saga was inspired when author Jacquie Parks came across two l...

see all heather's picks
Geraldine Brooks is the author of four novels, the Pulitzer Prize–winning Marchand the international bestsellers Caleb’s Crossing, People of the Book, and Year of Wonders. She has also written the acclaimed nonfiction works Nine Parts of Desire and Foreign Correspondence. Her most recent novel, Caleb’s Crossing, was the winner of the N...
Title:People Of The BookFormat:HardcoverDimensions:384 pages, 9.52 × 6.3 × 1.22 inPublished:April 4, 2013Publisher:Viking USALanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:067001821X

ISBN - 13:9780670018215


Rated 3 out of 5 by from People of the Book A well written and researched story. However, it was not as good as I was expecting. Everyone at worked raved about this and I just found that it was average.
Date published: 2012-06-27
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Mediocre I picked up this book because it was a Heather's pick but I was quite disappointed. I found the book somewhat boring and although I'm an avid reader I had to force myself to continue. Since it was a guaranteed read, I returned it and got my money back.
Date published: 2012-01-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Really Enjoyed It This was a good read, especially if you are a fan of historical fiction. As the main character investigates the origins of a rare book the reader is brought back in time to various points in the book's history - from WW2 to the Italian Renaissance and much in between - from the most recent past (Yugoslav wars of the 1990s) to the origins of the book. I liked how the book alternated between the present and history, and how the story is told from a variety of voices but was still anchored by the very likable main character Hanna.
Date published: 2010-08-09
Rated 2 out of 5 by from A bit disappointing was really excited about reading this book, especially after all the critical acclaim it has received. The novel's main character, Dr. Hanna Heath, has been sent to Sarajavo to restore a historic jewish book. During her investigation, she comes across certain items (a strain of hair, a blood stain, etc.). She researches their sources in order to write a history of the book. The writer takes the reader to various points in time to tell the story of how these items appeared in the book. Thus, the novel has numerous characters and stories; all tied to the sacrifices people had to endure to ensure the book's survival. The first half of the book I found to be very interesting and entertaining. I thought the character of Dr. Heath to be interesting and intriguing. Unfortunately, partly as a result of the set-up of the book, the story became dull and boring. I just wanted to read about Dr. Heath. The rest of the "side stories" became annoying and distracting. I struggled to read the last 150 pages or so. Overall, an interesting idea, but poor execution.
Date published: 2010-01-03
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Flat Read (and i dont mean the cover) Heather's guaranteed good read? First book that i have ever returned for my money back. Seriously returned. Boring and predictable. Nothing on the cover spoke about all the blah blah about the jewish religion contained within. No tension or suspense and the storyline that had fragments found in the binding of the "mystery book" were uncovered in such a snore-fest as to be laughable. Pass!
Date published: 2009-10-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent The Sarajeva Haggadah surfaces and book expert Hannah Heath is called in to study its' history. Through a series of clues, Each clue brings the book to different areas of the world, cultures, and people who will stop at nothing to protect this volume. This story although fiction, is partially true, and will bring you on a great historical ride. . If you liked the "Red Violin" you will like this.
Date published: 2009-07-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Awesome Book Worth Reading After the first 50 pages, I knew this was going to be one of my favourite books. Geraldine Brooks is a master at turning words into dazzling narratives. It’s the story of book conservator Hanna Heath, who is commissioned to restore the Sarajevo Haggadah, told in reverse chronological order from mid-1990s Sarajevo through its travels over centuries across Europe, from the perspective of one owner to the next. The history of the Haggadah is revealed as Heath examines clues like an insect wing, stains and spots, a white hair and missing clasps. I found it really interesting how little things like an insect wing or a salt water stain may seem insignificant but can actually have so much meaning and history behind it. The one thing I didn’t like about this book was the ending. Maybe it was the way it was written or how quick and unexpected the events of the final chapters were that seemed out of place to me. I also didn’t like how there was this whole big conflict between Heath and her mother and it just got worse and doesn’t get resolved. I guess the point was that not every story has a happy ending but it also seemed to end kind of abruptly after developing throughout the book. Despite this, I thought the book was fantastic and whatever flaws I thought the story had, were completely overshadowed by the rest of the book. I love this book, it was a really great read and I got a little bit of a history lesson at the same time.
Date published: 2009-07-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A TRIP THROUGH HISTORY WITH A RARE BOOK Hannah Heath, a rare book expert is called to Sarajevo in 1996 to take a look at the Haggadah, and illuminated Jewish religious volume. While restoring the book she discovers and insect wing, a wine stain, salt crystals and a single white hair. Her investigation into these clues leads the reader through not only through the history of the Haggadah, but through history itself. This is a fictionalized account of what may have been the Haggadah’s journey through time, but (and I may be mistaken here) I believe the Sarajevo Haggadah is a real illuminated volume. The format of a character in present time making a discovery and then taking us through history is not a new concept for writing historical fiction (GIRL WITH THE PEARL EARRING is the first one I remember reading in this manner), but I find that I enjoy the backward path these books take to bring us back to the present.
Date published: 2009-03-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Superbly done! Geraldine Brooks never misses in my view, and like her other 2 novels, this book delivers substance within a most entertaining tale. I particularly enjoyed the "back stories" that told the history of the haggadah and its keepers through the years. To me, the only downfall in the book was the overly dramatic conflict between the mother and the daughter, which didn't really advance the plot in any way and was a distraction. Otherwise, a really great read.
Date published: 2009-03-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Refreshing This book is refreshing in that is is similar to an anthology of short stories. It never gets monotonous or repetitive. The dialogue and plot are believable and the imagery very good.
Date published: 2008-08-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Wonderful book This is a wonderful book to read. Reminds me of watching the Red Violin, where we follow a personal story in the current time period and move back through the centuries to powerful sub-stories, following the history of the central object, in this case the Sarajevo Haggadah. The fictitious stories Brooks gives us around this actual historical book are moving, varied, and entertaining. Life affirming too in the deep down support people of different religions and cultures are capable of helping one another.
Date published: 2008-08-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Book that I couldn't Put Down! I really loved this book. Hannah is book conservationist and gets called to Sarajevo in 1996 during a cease fire in the Bosnian war. The Sarajevo Haggadah - a rare illustrated Jewish book used in the home for Passover made in the 15th Century - was saved from the mortar shells by a Muslim man and kept safe in a bank vault for several years. Hannah is to check the condition of the book and make some repairs. She finds a few interesting things - a salt water stain, a wine stain, a hair, an insect wing, grooves in the binding that make it look like it was made for a clasp. As she hunts down information about these things, we are told the true story as we go back in time to WWII, 1894, into the 15th Centrury and how the book was originally made. The historical segments - which make up most of the book - are definitely the strong points- and it is just fascinating to trace this book through history. To watch the Jewish people be run from their homes over and over again. To see Muslims save the book and utimately play a part in its creation. I just loved this book. I thought it was riveting and well-written and a fascinating look at different time in history. I think it has a horrible cover - I'd have never picked this book up if it wasn't for a co-worker who loved it. Hopefully, they will change the cover significantly for the trade edition.
Date published: 2008-05-09
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Heather, you can do better I have no idea why Heather R put her name on this book. I can only guess that it has something to do with the fact that our people are involved. How sad since Jews stand for excellence and nothing but excellence. Mind you they also stand for loyalty to each other but not at the expense of truth and the truth is that this book does not deserve to be rated as a top pick.
Date published: 2008-04-13
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Okay I don't think this book is worth all the hype it's received. It was interesting historically but I found the plot and the main character to be a little boring.
Date published: 2008-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Entertaining and Provoking - this is storytelling at its best My very first Heather’s Pick – and still one of my favourite stories – was 'The Secret Book of Grazia Dei Rossi'. A love story between a poor young woman and a dashing Count, set against the backdrop of all that was happening in the time of the Medicis, the richly imagined saga was inspired when author Jacquie Parks came across two letters in the young woman’s hand archived at The New York Public Library. Similarly, People of the Book, written by Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks, takes its inspiration from a small truth – the real-life existence of a rare and richly illustrated Passover Haggadah, originally created in medieval Spain. 'People of the Book' has it all – romance, mystery, intrigue, history, and when all is said and done – a great life lesson. It is storytelling at its best and will surely be considered one of the best novels of 2008. The perfect read to curl up with on these last few wintery weekends.
Date published: 2008-02-26
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Brooks' Latest Book Early on in this novel i was a little put off by a corny love scene - I expect more from Brooks than the hasty tearing off of clothes, yet as the novel progressed I was relieved to see Brooks living upto her reputation as a lofty lady of letters. The story traces the history of a Jewish manuscript Through a series of discoveries made by our protagonist, Hanna. As the narritive switches from the contemporary to the past Brooks strength as a historical writer shine through. It is the contemporary portions of the novel that are weakest and fall into cliche.
Date published: 2008-01-22

Editorial Reviews

"Less flash and more substance than The Da Vinci Code . . . The stories of the Sarajevo Haggadah, both factual and fictional, are stirring testaments to the people of many faiths who risked all to save this priceless work." - USA Today "As full of heart and curiosity as it is intelligence and judgment."-The Boston Globe "Intelligent, thoughtful, gracefully written and original." -Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post "Erudite but suspenseful . . . one of the most popular and successful works of fiction in the New Year."-Alan Cheuse, NPR / "All Things Considered"