Tuesday, November 25, 2008

people of the book

i just finished geraldine brooks' people of the book  and although i don't normally do book reviews (despite reading copiously), i just have to say something about this book. i mentioned the other day that i was pleasantly surprised to find that the sarajevo haggadah, which the book centers around, is a real document, although the story brooks has spun around it is fiction. 

the story she spins takes you traveling through time and through troubled times...from the relative peace and harmony of the convivencia in spain to the ghettos in venice at the height of the inquisition to the anti-semitism of the nazis and the blood and divided loyalties of the more recent balkan wars. you feel the cruelty and the fear up close. brooks is a marvelous writer and a wonderful storyteller.

this was one of those books which i have felt sad to have finished so quickly. i find myself thinking about it and wanting to go back and see what hanna, the australian scientist sent to conserve the haggadah and ozren, the curator at the bosnian museum are up to now. after only a couple of days with them, they feel like friends and i miss them and continue to feel curious about their lives. that's the best kind of story when you feel that way.

in a way, it's a bit like a well-written, well-told davinci code (which means it's actually nothing like davinci code, i admit)...laying some blame for brutality on the feet of the catholics, and taking us on all sorts of intrigues. there is a lot of mystery surrounding the sarajevo haggadah--who made it and why--and brooks' story of its origins and fate seems plausible, to the point where i want to go to sarajevo and see it. (i won't spoil the story for you here.)

a few years ago husband and i story-boarded out a tale of lost documents in the balkans, thinking that it's such a romantic and conflicted place that it would be the perfect setting for such a story. it was very interesting to find out that we weren't wrong about that. there must be other stories out there, just waiting to be told and that's the most intriguing thing of all about this book...that it gives hope that there's more waiting to be discovered.

if you haven't read this book, go get it from your library, you won't regret it.


Gwen said...

You've got me intrigued. I didn't think March was worthy of the prize it won, but I still liked it. Just slightly less than I could have, what with those expectations and all. But damn you for giving me another book to add to my towering pile.

Amanda said...

I went right to the library to get it yesterday for my upcoming trip(s)! Thanks for the recommendation!

Kathleen said...

I know this is an old post, but it popped up today... I loved this book too, and felt the same way - just had to write about it, here: http://mamasalwayswrite.com/?p=126
and here:

I'm glad to know you loved this book too.