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People of the book : a novel
Geraldine Brooks
Adult Fiction BROOKS

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Reading Geraldine Brooks's remarkable debut novel, Year of Wonders, or more recently March, which won the Pulitzer Prize, it would be easy to forget that she grew up in Australia and worked as a journalist. Now in her dazzling new novel, People of the Book, Brooks allows both her native land and current events to play a larger role while still continuing to mine the historical material that speaks so ardently to her imagination. Late one night in the city of Sydney, Hanna Heath, a rare book conservator, gets a phone call. The Sarajevo Haggadah, which disappeared during the siege in 1992, has been found, and Hanna has been invited by the U.N. to report on its condition. Missing documents and art works (as Dan Brown and Lev Grossman, among others, have demonstrated) are endlessly appealing, and from this inviting premise Brooks spins her story in two directions. In the present, we follow the resolutely independent Hanna through her thrilling first encounter with the beautifully illustrated codex and her discovery of the tiny signs-a white hair, an insect wing, missing clasps, a drop of salt, a wine stain-that will help her to discover its provenance. Along with the book she also meets its savior, a Muslim librarian named Karaman. Their romance offers both predictable pleasures and genuine surprises, as does the other main relationship in Hanna's life: her fraught connection with her mother. In the other strand of the narrative we learn, moving backward through time, how the codex came to be lost and found, and made. From the opening section, set in Sarajevo in 1940, to the final section, set in Seville in 1480, these narratives show Brooks writing at her very best. With equal authority she depicts the struggles of a young girl to escape the Nazis, a duel of wits between an inquisitor and a rabbi living in the Venice ghetto, and a girl's passionate relationship with her mistress in a harem. Like the illustrations in the Haggadah, each of these sections transports the reader to a fully realized, vividly peopled world. And each gives a glimpse of both the long history of anti-Semitism and of the struggle of women toward the independence that Hanna, despite her mother's lectures, tends to take for granted. Brooks is too good a novelist to belabor her political messages, but her depiction of the Haggadah bringing together Jews, Christians and Muslims could not be more timely. Her gift for storytelling, happily, is timeless. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Rare because haggadahs are seldom illuminated and precious for the quality of those illustrations, the Sarajevo Haggadah has survived the siege of that city, saved by a Muslim who headed the library at the National Museum. Rare books conservator Hanna Heath, summoned from Sydney to Sarajevo to evaluate it, finds tiny clues--an insect's wing, a wine stain, a hair--that establish its provenance and lead into flashbacks about the book's history, showing how it survived the Spanish Inquisition, the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, and the Nazis and how it came to be created in the first place. Not the least of these stories is Hanna's own. Brooks, whose March won a Pulitzer Prize in 2006, convincingly re-creates several unfamiliar settings--Seville in 1480, Barcelona in 1492, Venice in 1609, Vienna in 1894, Yugoslavian resistance to German occupation, and Sarajevo in 1996. Reader Edwina Wren, faced with re-creating all these accents, sometimes defaults to one that's generically foreign. Some of the many characters could also have been a little more developed, but this is both a literary novel and a popular hit, one of those big, ambitious, impossibly erudite books that pursue hidden knowledge through the ages. Recommended.--John Hiett, Iowa City P.L. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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main characters Hannah Heath
Rare book conservator; invited to investigate the condition of the Sarajevo Haggadah, which disappeared in 1992; begins a relationship with Karaman.
Rare book dealer

Found the missing Sarajevo Haggadah; begins a relationship with Hannah.

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