§ion=&combo2=&text1=&text2=&SocNetUsername=&SocNetPassword=&authCode=& 7th Decade Thoughts: People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

7th Decade Thoughts

Thoughts about books, politics and history (personal and otherwise), pictures I've taken and pictures I've edited.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

Hannah, an Australian specialist in preserving old manuscripts is invited to Sarajevo in 1996 to advise on an old Jewish manuscript with Christian-like illustrations which had been preserved by Muslims. The manuscript was seen as a symbol of collaboration and good relationships among the "people of the book". The novel not only tells Hanna's story but imagines a history for the manuscript itself, "explaining" every mystery she encounters with a human situations from the past.

I was nevertheless somewhat disappointed by this book. Brooks did a whale of a job of research so that, though the book is fiction, all of the periods of history in the past of the Sarajevo Haggadah were recreated in authentic and believable detail. But there’s more to fiction than research and believable historical detail and I felt that Brooks sacrificed human truths in favor of historical truths. Hannah’s story is complex, but somehow bloodless. I understood what happened to her, but didn’t feel it. The many many historical contributors to the manuscript were also believable, but most existed only in one dimension, in one chapter of the book. Characters rarely “live” with that little exposure.


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