Saturday, December 11, 2010

People of the Book

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

People of the book is about a famous book called the Sarajevo Haggadah.  It is famous because it is an illuminated manuscript that illustrated the Jewish text of the Bible from Creation to the Exodus from Egypt.  The book is over 500 years old and extremely rare because most Jewish families did not illuminate their books as that went against tradition.  Illuminating books was primarily done by Christians.  The Haggadah is commonly used by Jewish families on the Passover Seder.  The Sarajevo Haggadah is illuminated with gold and copper and handwritten on delicate calfskin.  It currently resides in Sarajevo but the book has traveled far and Brook's fictional story illuminates the journey of this great book through the eyes of Hanna, a Australian book conservator.

Have you ever read a book and wondered if you left something in it?   Imagine that a book you have read survived for hundreds of years and that what you left behind tells part of the journey of the book.
Hanna finds several items left behind in the book when she is restoring it.  She finds a hair, a wine stain, salt crystals, an insect wing and she discovers something is missing from the book.  What follows is Hanna's account of the possibilities and the history of the Jews in Spain, Italy, Vienna and Sarajevo.  I love the concept of the rare book restorer discovering personal items and recreating the history of the book. 

Have you ever found something in a book or purposely left something behind?  I once found a 5 dollar bill in a book and have found numerous book marks and lists, I even found a plane ticket stub.  It is fun to imagine the travels these books went on.

This is the third book I have read by Geraldine Brooks and every book has been entertaining, educational and enjoyable.  I met the author right after she published:  The Year of Wonders, a tale about the Black Death in a small village in England.  She is a petite and spunky woman and super nice.  All of her books are on my reading list for my World History classes.  I can't wait to see what she publishes next.

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