Friday, October 05, 2012

Friday Fiction

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

 I missed the hype about this book first time round and only discovered it because a friend raved about it to me one weekend.  I downloaded it onto my kindle and it sat there unread for a few weeks because I got distracted with other things and actually forgot it was there!  Trawling through my titles one evening I re-discovered it and I have to say that it's one of the most fascinating books I've read for some time.

The plot is based on the true story of an ancient Jewish codex saved from the fire by a Muslim librarian.  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 creation to the present day.
In Bosnia during World War II, a Muslim risks his life to protect it from the Nazis. In the hedonistic salons of fin-de-si├Ęcle Vienna, the book becomes a pawn in the struggle against the city's rising anti-Semitism. In inquisition-era Venice, a Catholic priest saves it from burning. In Barcelona in 1492, the scribe who wrote the text sees his family destroyed by the agonies of enforced exile. In Seville in 1480, the reason for the Haggadah's extraordinary illuminations is finally disclosed. Hanna's investigation unexpectedly plunges her into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics.

I loved the history and realism that Brooks intertwines with her plot; the back stories of the book drawing you in and the final realisation that everything has a history and a story attached; even such a humble object as a book. 

Any suggestions for my next read?

images via Google Images

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