People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks

Central Library: PR9619.3.B7153 P46 2008

The People of the Book is my favorite kind of book—full of suspense and history, overwhelming me with the immensity of time and the intensity of a moment.

The narrative opens in 1996 with book restorer Hanna Heath flying into to Sarajevo to restore an illuminated manuscript that surfaced after the war. The Sarajevo Haggadah, a real book living in a fictional story, had been hidden for protection from the war.

During the course of her examination, Hanna discovers items that form the basis of the proceeding chapters—a moth, a missing clasp, a wine stain, salt crystals, and a white hair. Her research brings her increasing information about the book, but only the readers discover the events that Hanna can only guess at, telling the story of the book backwards in time to its creation in the late 15th century.

This novel engages so many of interests—mystery, history, science, family, myth, culture, and religion. The story is a braid of the entwining lives of Christians, Jews, and Muslims in Europe—through conflict and contentment.  It is the story of how strongly all groups have influenced the other’s culture, philosophy, art, and religion.

The writing is compelling, the characters full and heart-breakingly unforgettable, and the settings rich and colorful. It is a book that has come alive in me, along with its people.

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