Friday, May 23, 2008

People of the Book

I like to read, and part of my job entails me picking and choosing books for the library. It's a fun part of my job but sometimes it's a hard part of my job. Sometimes, you read a review and you think, "wow, that sounds like a great book." You buy it, and then, well, it wasn't such a great book."

It's hard too picking out books for others to read. I mean, you have to take into account other preferences and not just your own, which is really hard when you don't know your constituents yet. I nailed it when I chose some graphic novels, some manga, but other graphic novels have bombed. And here's something of note...I am secretly pleased when a book that I bought, and I chose gets stolen.


Yep, if it's stolen, that means that someone loved my choice and loved the book, or DVD, or audiobook, whichever. They loved it enough to steal it. Yeah, that's warped. Because it usually means that I have to re-order that title, but still, it's nice to know that someone wanted something I chose., I'm reviewing a book that I bought for the library, and no one else has read it yet. There's still hope that someone will pick it up and read it. It's gotten great reviews, so I hope it catches on.

People of the book by Geraldine Brooks is a great novel. In 1996, Hanna, a rare book restorer, is called to Sarajevo to repair a rare fifteenth-century illustrated Jewish manuscript, a Haggadah, which is read at Passover meals. This Haggadah mysteriously traveled from Spain to Sarajevo, and has survived Nazi book burnings, Vienna's anti-semitism, the Inquisition, and exile from it's native Spain, when Ferdinand and Isabella kicked all Jews out of Spain. It has recently survived the bombings of Sarajevo's libraries..

While restoring and documenting the repairs to the book, Hanna finds various stains and artifacts in the binding of the book. These artifacts lend to the book's history over the centuries.

Each chapter of the book details some of the events in the life of the Haggadah's journey. One chapter describes how it was slipped out of Sarajevo--right under the Nazi's nose and kept safe in a Muslim Mosque, high in the mountains. Another chapter shares how the book was saved from burning during the Inquisition. The final chapters describe how the book was created, from the scholar who wrote it's text, to the artist who, using a brush made from the fur of a cat, created the illuminations.

Interspersed with the book's personal story, is Hanna's own story of discovery. She learns about herself, her past, her heritage and her future. Both stories are blended together beautifully. As each artifact share's it's part of the Haggadah's story, you, the reader, learn about not only the history of the Haggadah, but also about the history of European Jews.

It was a wonderful book that I really enjoyed. I came away with a greater appreciation of ancient books and with the skill it takes to conserve them. I learned more about the trials and struggles of European Jews in a predominately Catholic Europe. It was a fascinating journey.

So, step out there, pick up a copy of People of the book.

1 comment:

agent713 said...

That sounds great! It's on the shelf at my library. I'll pick it up later today and let you know what I think.