Monday, March 21, 2011

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

People of the Book cuts back and forth through time to various countries and characters all connected by the same book, a five hundred year old haggadah which was most recently saved from destruction in Sarajevo during the Serb bombardment.  Each episode involving the text focuses on one main character, usually Jewish, and experiencing a tremendous event in history.  There is the beginning of World War II in Bosnia, Venice in the early 1600s, the Spanish Inquisition and the Jewish explusion from Spain in 1492, and the wars between the Christians and Moors in Spain in the late 1400s.  At the conclusion of each episode, the story returns to the present day with an explanation of one of the book's mysterys. 

This is really good historical fiction.  The Sarajevo Haggadah actually does exist and some of the cities in the preceeding paragraph are places the book is alleged to have been in its lifetime.  Everything else is fiction.  It is a bit overwhelming and melancholic to continuously digest chapters describing horrendous atrocities committed against the Jewish population throughout the last half century.  It is very moving and engaging, but nevertheless tiring by the end.  Furthermore, there is a twist at the end which is absolutely unnecessary.  I wish her editor would have thrown that right out.  It doesn't fit and throws a hiccup in the pacing.  Other than that distraction, I highly recommend this book.

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