Thursday, March 8, 2012

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

A fictionalized history built around a true-life artifact, this novel illuminates the fantastic journeys of one Jewish manuscript from its creation through several wars and persecutions into modern times.

As the main character, rare books expert Hanna Heath, analyzes and stabilizes the ancient manuscript for exhibit, we the reader are transported through time to discover the stories behind the clues. As Hanna speculates on the science behind each "fingerprint" in the book, we learn the stories she'll never know.

We can never know the full provenance of an inanimate item - Where did it come from? Who touched it? What has it been through?  But the long history of the Sarajevo Haggadah and the persecutions of the Jewish people throughout history offer Brooks a wealth of opportunities to weave an imagined fiction for this novel.

I found it fascinating, educational, and lush with description about places and peoples I'd never before encountered. You'll speculate differently about "things" you encounter in life after reading the secret life of this one object.

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