TBR: People of the Book

On vacation with my in-laws, I did manage to read a few books for fun. One of them was Geraldine Brooks' People of the Book.  It's fiction, but based on the true story of the Sarajevo Haggadah, a rare illuminated Jewish manuscript, which was protected from the Nazis by a Muslim cleric and also survived the bombings of Sarajevo during the wars of the 1990s.

The title of the book is both a play on the traditional notion that Jews are "the people of the Book" (e.g. the Torah) and a description of the contents, as it follows the stories of the different people who were involved with the creation, use, and protection of the manuscript over the centuries.  Brooks uses the story to highlight stories of multi-cultural friendship in a part of the world known for its ethnic feuds. The story unfolds backwards, with each story tied to a piece of physical evidence found in the Haggadah, and at times reminded me of a highbrow version of a James Michener concept.  But Brooks writes very well, and I enjoyed the story as it unfolded.

By coincidence or serendipity, my in-laws gave me a reproduction of the real Sarajevo Haggadah for the holidays — purchased long before I showed up with the novel.  I certainly appreciated the gift more for knowing the story that went with it.

In writing this review, I remembered that I blogged about another Brooks book, March, a few years back.  I think I liked that one a bit more.

One Response to “TBR: People of the Book”

  1. Susan Says:

    I finished that a few weeks ago–I liked it more while I was reading it than afterwards. I felt frustrated by the snippets of the historical stories, and wanted to know more about how some of those people’s lives turned out. And the presentation of the quasi-academic lives of the modern characters seems a bit out of touch. But still, a good read. I”ll have to go check out your post on March.

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