Friday, January 8, 2016

Book Review: People Of The Book, by Geraldine Brooks

Genre: historical fiction
Number of Pages: 372

Goodreads | Shelfari | Audible

Synopsis: 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.
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.

My Rating: 
★★★★, maybe even ★★★★1/2
....For being a beautifully written tale of a book's survival through the ages.

My Thoughts: This is a very good book. A, very good book. It's one of those novels that has numerous good qualites, but the writing alone would have made it great.
This has been on my TBR for ages, but I'm finally reading it for the sake of a book group I joined back in October, and I am sooo looking forward to the discussion on this one! Like I said, the writing alone is beautiful, but I think my favorite part was how the plot was arranged. It starts off with the book-restorer, Hannah, finding certain things within the book (insect fragment, white hair, etc.), and then investigating what each item is and where it comes from. Once the item is identified, you are taken back in time and watching events unfold and how the item came to land on the book. Each time something is identified, you travel further and further back in time, learning more and more about the book and its owners/makers, until you reach the time when the illustrations were first made. Really excellent layout!
Plus, the historical aspect is extremely satisfying. I loved history back in college, and it still holds a special place in my heart, but I don't always find decent historical fiction. This was a good one though! It touched on different time periods, but followed the same themes through each period, so you got to see how those themes changed (or stayed the same) through time. For myself, it was incredibly interesting.
I couldn't bring myself to love this story, though. I think it was mainly the pace. It seemed to drag a little, although it picked up fairly quickly towards the end. But I feel that there was definitely some slow parts. Maybe it was because I was listening to it instead of actually reading it. Not a major negative point, though. I'll probably re-read this in the future, because I totally want to remember this book. Definitely recommended!

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