BookBrowse Reviews People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

People of the Book

by Geraldine Brooks

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks X
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jan 2008, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2009, 672 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Lisa A. Goldstein

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of March, the journey of a rare illuminated manuscript through centuries of exile and war

The latest novel by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of March is ambitious yet succeeds in captivating its audience. With themes of art, conservation, religious persecution, and history that span over 500 years, this book could be intimidating to some. But any fears are immediately set to rest with the introduction of the first-person narrator, Hanna Heath, whose casual delivery and humor make for easy reading. Here's Hanna as she prepares to be the first person to touch the manuscript in a century:

"As many times as I've worked on rare, beautiful things, that first touch is always a strange and powerful sensation. It's a combination between brushing a live wire and stroking the back of a newborn baby's head."

Hanna's story, set in the present-day, alternates with the manuscript's journey, which is revealed backwards. As Hanna tries to unravel the mysteries of the artifacts she uncovers, the reader is plunged into a story about each artifact, set in that time. Brooks's skill is such that she writes about history in a familiar way, with well-drawn characters you come to care about. The flow of the novel is never interrupted despite the jumps in the timeline.

Upon reading the first "flashback," you might wonder how the story within a story is relevant to the plot. Have faith in Brooks' good, succinct descriptions and her storytelling ability, but prepare yourself for some heartbreak and unanswered questions. Brooks provides enough information to explain the origin of each artifact, but leaves gaps in the story to allow for imagination to work. The reader still ends up knowing more than Hanna, which gives the book a kind of edge.

The manuscript in question is a Haggadah, the story of the Jews' exodus from Egypt that is read by Jews during Passover. Clearly, there is symbolism in Brooks' selection of a Haggadah. But the novel isn't just about the stories within, or Hanna's work on the Haggadah. Between the developments in Hanna's personal and professional life, there are plenty of plot twists to propel the book along.

By the end, the Haggadah's value will truly be appreciated, along with the sacrifice and suffering that went into preserving it. The title encapsulates it all: it's about the people of the book, because if not for them, the Haggadah would not have survived. Brooks's larger message, one that's particularly apt today, could ultimately be about how diverse cultures influence and enrich one another.

About the Author

In her books, Geraldine Brooks likes assuming the personas of different genders and times. Her 2001 novel, Year of Wonders, is set in 17th century England. March, is told from a man's perspective during the Civil War. She is innately familiar with some of the locales she writes about. Not only is she a native Australian, but she used to cover crises in Bosnia, Somalia, and the Middle East for The Wall Street Journal. She is married to Tony Horwitz, author of a number of non fiction works including Blue Latitudes. They have one child and three dogs, and divide their time between homes in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and Sydney, Australia.

Interviews at BookBrowse.

Reviewed by Lisa A. Goldstein

This review was originally published in January 2008, and has been updated for the January 2009 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: New World, Inc.
    New World, Inc.
    by Simon Targett, John Butman
    When we think about the founding of America, we typically envision Pilgrims in black garb and boxy ...
  • Book Jacket: New World, Inc.
    New World, Inc.
    by Simon Targett, John Butman
    When we think about the founding of America, we typically envision Pilgrims in black garb and boxy ...
  • Book Jacket: The Ensemble
    The Ensemble
    by Aja Gabel
    In May 1994, the members of the Van Ness String Quartet are completing their final graduate recital ...
  • Book Jacket: The Electric Woman
    The Electric Woman
    by Tessa Fontaine
    In 2010, author Tessa Fontaine's mother had a near-fatal hemorrhagic stroke, leaving her with a...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Harbor of Spies by Robin Lloyd

A captivating thriller-at-sea set in Spanish colonial Havana in the 1860s.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Anatomy of a Miracle
    by Jonathan Miles

    A stunning novel that offers an exploration of faith, science and the meaning of life.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Comedown

The Comedown by Rebekah Frumkin

A blistering dark comedy that explores delineating lines of race, class, religion, and time.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I Wouldn't T H W A T-F P

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.