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Review: People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks 
27th-May-2010 04:42 pm
People of the Book People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The story begins with a book restorer, named Hannah, arriving in Sarajevo in 1996 to work on the Sarajevo Haggadah, a centuries -old haggadah with unusual illuminations. As she works, Hannah takes a number of samples from the book - a fragment of insect wing tucked between two pages, a wine stain, a hair. As Hannah has each of these samples analyzed, they provide an excuse to tell the story of some incident in the haggadah's long history.

There's a touch of contrivedness to the whole thing: the story of the haggadah very conveniently allows coverage of a nice big swath of the European Jewish experience, while in the story's present, Hannah and the book go through a fairly thrilling series of adventures of their own. For me, what lifts this book above the pedestrian is how engaging the characters are - I often struggle with books that plunge me into the head of a new narrator every 50 pages, but never had a problem with this book. Hannah herself makes an interestingly flawed narrator - there were fairly large chunks of the book where I wasn't sure if I really liked her, but she kept me interested. I think I came down on the side of liking her in the end.

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