People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

68%

28 Critic Reviews

We are left wishing Brooks had found a less obtrusive way to gather up the many strands of her narrative.
-NY Times

Synopsis

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.
 

About Geraldine Brooks

See more books from this Author
Geraldine Brooks is the author of March, the recipient of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. She is also the author of Year of Wonders, Nine Parts of Desire, and Foreign Correspondence. Previously, Brooks was a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal in Bosnia, Somalia, and the Middle East. She lives with her husband, the author Tony Horwitz, and their son.
 
Published January 1, 2008 by Penguin Books. 396 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Action & Adventure, History. Fiction
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Critic reviews for People of the Book
All: 28 | Positive: 19 | Negative: 9

Kirkus

Above average
Reviewed by Kirkus Reviews on May 20 2010

Its recovery makes for an enthralling historical mystery.

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NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Lisa Fugard on Jan 20 2008

We are left wishing Brooks had found a less obtrusive way to gather up the many strands of her narrative.

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NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Janet Maslin on Jan 07 2008

It strains for the momentum of a “Da Vinci Code” but is bogged down by convoluted ambitions.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Jane Housham on Oct 17 2008

The depth of Brooks's research makes for a narrative of almost forensic intensity that is effectively tempered by compassion and decency.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Robert Collins on Oct 11 2008

Too many disparate strands, but the engrossing details of Heath's book-detecting skills make her a truly likeable heroine.

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Guardian

Below average
Reviewed by Ursula K Le Guin on Jan 18 2008

In the end I wonder if this might not have been a better book if, forswearing invention, the author, an experienced journalist, had simply followed the true and amazing story of the Sarajevo Haggadah

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Blog Critics

Above average
Reviewed by Regis Schilken on Mar 23 2009

As fiction, it gives the reader a non-fictional sense of the terrors of past Jewish history.

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Blog Critics

Good
Reviewed by Jon Sobel on Jan 06 2009

Brooks' writing transports us into these worlds almost as completely as her invented 15th century scribe.

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Blog Critics

Above average
Reviewed by Ted Gioia on Jan 22 2008

Give Brooks’ story a chance – it is definitely a page-turner about a page-turner.

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Examiner

Good
Reviewed by Cheyenne Robertson on Oct 27 2009

It was very well written and incredibly intriguing.

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NY Journal of Books

Excellent
Reviewed by David Cooper on Dec 14 2010

People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction and Fantasy is a book that belongs in every Jewish library with an acquisitions budget and on the desk of every Jewish educator.

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Book Reporter

Good
Reviewed by Harvey Freedenberg on Jan 17 2011

Following on her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel MARCH, in PEOPLE OF THE BOOK she continues to raise the bar for practitioners of this literary genre.

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AV Club

Above average
Reviewed by Donna Bowman on Feb 06 2008

Her theme—interfaith cooperation against overwhelming prejudice—provides moving moments in every flashback.

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Entertainment Weekly

Below average
Reviewed by Jennifer Reese on Dec 14 2008

Too often, you sense Brooks behind the scenes, pulling strings.

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Christian Science Monitor

Above average
Reviewed by Yvonne Zipp on Jan 02 2008

The fact that every single story is loaded with portent about the treatment of the Jewish people (and women) over the centuries, makes it impossible to shake off the knowledge that Brooks is always hovering over the pages

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The Bookbag

Excellent
Reviewed by Elaine Dingsdale on Jan 01 2008

I simply cannot commend this book highly enough. The research involved, must have encompassed religious/historical/geographical/linguistic/conservation/political - and a few more besides! The author deserves every praise and recognition for this astonishing novel...

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USA Today

Above average
Reviewed by Susan Kelly on Jan 09 2008

The stories of the Sarajevo Haggadah, both factual and fictional, are stirring testaments to the people of many faiths who risked all to save this priceless work.

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The Seattle Times

Above average
Reviewed by Michael Upchurch on Jan 12 2008

Brooks may be spelling out her message a little too explicitly here.

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Review (Barnes & Noble)

Above average
Reviewed by Veronique de Turenne on Jan 02 2008

How the lives of the people of the book merge, diverge, and reconnect forms the affecting arc of this ambitious and accomplished novel.

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PopMatters

Below average
Reviewed by Diane Leach on Jan 22 2008

The ending, involving Hanna’s paternity, Ozren, and an Israeli commando, turns this history-lite into a 007 whodunit, closing on a predictable love-conquers-all moment that left me disgusted.

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About.com Bestsellers

Below average
Reviewed by Erin Collazo Miller on Jan 01 2008

The overarching story in People of the Book leaves something to be desired.

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Cleveland.com

Good
Reviewed by Karen R. Long on Feb 05 2009

As I neared the end, I slowed myself down, savoring each word.

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MostlyFiction Book Reviews

Good
Reviewed by Jana L. Perskie on May 10 2009

Geraldine Brooks’ characters are rich, colorful and well developed. Her recounting of the history surrounding the book is extremely well researched, and her own imagination is very fertile.

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Book Buzz

Good
Reviewed by Gloria Fogal on Apr 06 2009

The characters, circumstances and political history are all brought to life.

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Story Circle Book Reviews

Good
Reviewed by Jennifer Melville on Jan 12 2009

People of the Book was intellectually stimulating, based on history, and exquisitely crafted.

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Willamette Week

Above average
Reviewed by Michael Kimber on Jan 14 2009

Brooks’ story shows that something beautiful can survive the fire.

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Caribarena Antigua

Good
Reviewed by Gabriela Laureano on Aug 26 2009

People of the Book has rejuvenated the love for history in the readers.

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Helium

Good
Reviewed by Bruno Somerset on Dec 06 2010

Geraldine Brooks does an amazing job of pulling this ambitious literary endeavor together and guiding it to a very satisfactory conclusion.

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Reader Rating for People of the Book
83%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 1248 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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