Wrong Person for the Book

People of the BookI wrote in an earlier post that I was excited to read People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks, but “excited” might not convey fully my interest in this book. During my senior year in college, I worked in the Marriott Library’s Preservation department. It was a glorious nine months – probably the most enjoyable job I’ve ever had! It was too brief a stint to get much more than a taste of book conservation, but I loved what I tasted! When the art museum on campus had a book art display last year I attended the exhibit twice, taking an uncle with me on the second visit. A novel about the history and conservation of an illuminated text certainly appeals to me. Moreover, I was interested in this particular book, the Sarajevo haggadah, having been primed by an article in The New Yorker about the incredible events surrounding its’ preservation. Considering this novel is written by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, is a current best seller and a recent Booksense Pick, it bears all of the hallmarks of a terrific read. I even like the cover art!

To say that I was excited to read People of the Book is a gross understatement. To say that I was excited to read People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks is a gross misstatement. Her experience as a correspondent in Sarajevo does establish credibility for the scenes in that setting, but that is the only positive she brings to this story. Her main narrator, Hanna Heath, an Australian expert in book conservation, is just as irritating to me as she is to her distant mother. With only one exception, the imagined historical chapters are poorly portrayed and disappointing. The blatant emotional abuse that Brooks heaps on her characters is sickening, and the contrived plot twists (Hanna discovers she is half Jewish!) are insulting and unnecessary. The true story of the survival of the Sarajevo haggadah and those who risked their lives to protect it is dramatic enough, and these amendments only detract from that story. Brooks is the wrong person to write this book. In the hands of Michael Chabon it would have been riveting. As written by Brooks it’s revolting.

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One Response to “Wrong Person for the Book”

  1. I was so inspired about the book that I took my family on a journey that was likely the book traveled. From Venice, along the magical Adriatic coast and to the heart of Balkans… The Brooks’ book does not do justice to any of that! If she traveled only once and saw the real Jewish heritage of the region, her book would be sooo much different! I was so moved by the very sight of the real Haggadah that there are no words to describe it! Another thing that amazed me was the fact that there was a real Jewish brigade fighting the Nazis! It actually happened in Croatia but the Communist disbanded them afraid that the Nazis may take an extra effort to destroy the first organized Jewish fighters after Masada!!! Thanks to the people at http://www.sarajevohaggadahjourney.com we had probably the most wonderful journey ever…

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