People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks, is a fictitious journey of an actual document, the Sarajevo Haggadah. It is a scared text of the Jews and the reader is taken on the various journeys it has made over the centuries and given snippets of the lives of the people over these centuries who made their own sacrifices in keeping this book alive. People of different faiths and religious beliefs.
Hanna Heath, an Australian rare book-restorer, is summoned to Bosnia upon the retrieval of the Haggadah to help restore it. As she is engaged in the same, she discovers a few clues such as an insect’s wing, wine stains, salwater particles and a white hair that raise questions about the book’s journey over the centuries. The book is divided into chapters that move from the present to the past. Each clue has it’s own chapter, thereby giving us more insight into it. The present is mostly about Hanna and inter-weaves her personal life with her professional life. The past is about the journey of the Haggadah across centuries, countries, religions and wars.
Personally, the book took a while for me to get into. It was only near the end that I really got into it. The historical aspects, while very informative and well-researched, took a lot of effort for me. Especially given that my knowledge about this is minimal. However, putting that aside, it is a well-written work of literature. Brooks gently explores the crimes of mankind over centuries, mostly in the name of religion, as well as the sacrifices and bravery of few individuals through these centuries and countries. Simultaneously she takes you inside Hanna’s life, which at some instances seemed a bit trite and formulaic. If you are a fan of historical fiction, you will love the book. I rated it a 3.
Until next time,