Book Review: People of The Book

People of the Book
by Geraldine Brooks

I finished this book a few days ago and needed to let it percolate. I just sent it on to one of my girlfriends who is a regular reader, so spoiler alert.

The book tells the fictional account of the book called the Sarajevo Haggadah. This book has survived since the 14th century. The book is special not only because of its age but also because of the ancient prohibition, similar to the Muslim prohibition recently brought into the media’s attention by the caricatures of Mohammed, against drawing the image of Jewish leaders.

We travel backwards in time from the present, where the main 20-something protagonist Australian book restorer is restoring the book to its glory after the war in Bosnia.

The author Geraldine Brooks, a former reporter, does a great job imagining the lives of the people this book touched: from the Muslim slave who originally painted the book to the Jewish man who wrote the stories in the book.

What did not work for me in this book were the chapters with the protagonist. Brooks is Australian herself and she wrote what felt like a somewhat stifled caricature of herself. I guess I bought all of the other characters: the priest in charge of burning books in Italy, the Jews fighting in the hills to save themselves during WWII, or the Jewish doctor with a mistress on the side. I wanted to know how they got on in life so to speak. The main character, well I could care less what happened to her.

One other note. Once the story of the haggadah during a certain time period was tied to the next period, Brooks would move the story along. Sometimes I was left hanging, wondering what happened to the character, never to know.

I learned quite a bit a bit about religion and book restoration in a novel way. Overall, I think it is worth a read if you are looking for a light book with which to pass a weekend.

For those who don't know: "In Islam, the People of the Book are non-Muslim peoples who, according to the Qur'an, received scriptures which were revealed to them by God before the time of Muhammad, most notably Christians and Jews. The generally accepted interpretation is that the pre-Islamic revealed texts are the Tawrat, Zabur and the Injil. They are roughly equivalent to the Jewish Torah, the Book of Psalms, and the Four Christian Gospels, respectively." (From Wikipedia.)

1 comment:

SAHM said...

So I finally have finished the book and now have come back to read your review. Like you I found myself wanting to know more about the characters of yesterday, but unlike you I was glad to see the main character find her own place after cutting ties with her mother and making a connection with her father's family. Overall it was quite intriguing and very different from my usual reads, but I liked it! I am so glad you sent it my way.