Monday, January 25, 2016

People of the Book

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (2008)

This is one of the most lauded novels by Geraldine Brooks, and the one I kept putting off reading. The subject is the Sarajevo Haggadah, an ancient illuminated manuscript. Somehow the premise was not super interesting to me, but I've read all of this author's other books and really enjoy her writing so I didn't want to leave this one out. I put it on my TBR challenge for this year and convinced my book group to choose it for this month.

The novel begins in 1996 when Hanna Heath is hired to examine the Sarajevo Haggadah and perform some conservation work on it. Hidden in its pages, she finds wine stains, an insect wing, a white hair, and salt crystals. Each of these gets its own story, taking us back in time to discover the source and add to the complete history of the book and the people who have owned, saved, and altered it over its vast history.

This structure is pretty cool, conceptually. At the same time, it kept feeling like I had a new story to try and get into which sort of meant that I was never fully in the novel the way I wanted to be. Each back story presented me with a new time and place, and a slew of new characters. By the time I got settled into the story, I was back in 1996 with Hanna.

Still, it was done well, the richness of the descriptions and attention to historic detail rivaling that of any other book by Geraldine Brooks. Objectively it's a good book even if I appreciated it more than I actually enjoyed reading it. I'm glad I finally got to it and am now caught up on this author, who appeared on my list Unread Books by Favorite Authors. This is also my first completed title for my 2016 TBR Pile Challenge.

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