This latest novel by Geraldine Brooks has become very popular. While to my mind it is not as well-written as her previous book, March, People of the Book is quite good.
In 1996, an Australian book conservator, Hanna Heath, is commissioned to conserve the famed Sarajevo Haggadah (which actually does exist-but most of the book is fiction). The war between Bosnia and Serbia has recently ended, and the city of Saravejo bears the scars. This Haggadah is so precious to the people of Saravejo that Hanna must work on it under guard. Her time with the book is limited, as it is scheduled to be displayed in a specially designed room at the National Museum. As she is working with the book, Hanna samples some fragments she finds on its pages: a stain, an insect wing, a hair, a salt crystal. The book revisits the past and describes how each of these items made its way into the Haggadah. There is also an unexpected plot twist near the end of the book, which leads to a further discovery about the Haggadah.
My only complaint about this book is the extraneous plot lines that distract from the compelling story of the Haggadah. Who is Hanna’s father; why is her relationship with her mother so bad; why does she sleep around so much? I don’t really care! The book is long and complex enough.
All that aside, this is a really good book. So go read it!
Published in hardcover-Viking 2008
Softcover edition-Penguin 2008