People of the Book: A Novel

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Penguin, Jan 1, 2008 - Fiction - 400 pages
228 Reviews

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.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Outstanding writing and story telling. - LibraryThing
A complex plot; often confusing. - LibraryThing
I love the cover art. - LibraryThing
It was quite interesting, and I love Brooks's writing. - LibraryThing
And the ending was a tad too contrived. - LibraryThing
Each diversion from the major plot was fascinating. - LibraryThing

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User Review  - joeydag - LibraryThing

Well told stories about an unusual Jewish book passing through history and the people involved in its creation and preservation. I love history and the author does a wonderful job of invoking several ... Read full review

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User Review  - ChristineEllei - LibraryThing

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 ... Read full review

All 24 reviews »


An Insects Wing
Feathers and a Rose
Wine Stains
A White Hair

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About the author (2008)

Geraldine Brooks was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 2006 for her novel March. Her first novel, Year of Wonders, is an international bestseller, and her novel People of the Book was a New York Times bestseller translated into 20 languages. She is also the author of the nonfiction works Nine Parts of Desire and Foreign Correspondence.

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