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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Believe the Hype

Ok, here I go....My first attempt at this Lemuria Blogging thing. You all know that I claim to be a reader and not a writer so please forgive any errors that are forthcoming.

Last night I finished Geraldine Brooks new book, People of the Book. I took it home with me last week because I came to work and we had sold 4 copies of the book and it was only 9:15! NPR had done an interview with Ms. Brooks that morning and people were pouring in the store to get the book. NPR said People of the Book is the best book of 2008! I was a little wary of that considering it was only January 4, 2008 but I knew there had to be something to it because Geraldine Brooks did win the Pulitzer Prize for her last novel, March.

Geraldine Brooks was inspired by a true story when she wrote People of the Book. During the bombing of Sarajevo, the librarians risked their lives and some lost them to try and save as many books as they could from the library in Sarajevo. The book at the center of this story is the Hebrew codex known as the Sarajevo Haggadah. It was in the collection of the National Museum of Bosnia which was "splattered with the shrapnel of frequent shelling" during the war. The fate of the Haggadah wasn't known until after war when it was revealed that a Muslim librarian, Enver Imamovic, saved the codex during the shelling and hidden it in a bank vault.

What makes this book so special is the fact that it is illuminated. It was discovered in 1894 when an indigent Jewish family needed to sell it the art historians where shocked because it made them rethink the belief "that figurative art had been suppressed among medieval Jews for religious reasons".

Many of the facts about the Haggadah are true to it's known history but the plot and characters in People of the Book are all from Geraldine Brooks imagination and what an imagination she has. We begin with an Australian rare book expert, Hanna, is offered the job of conserving the Haggadah and doing research on its history. While inspecting the book she discovers three artifacts in the books binding, a piece of an insect wing, a wine stain, and salt crystals. Using the information known to her and these things she begins to learn about the books mysterious past. From here we travel to Bosnia during WWII, to the salons of Vienna, to Venice in 1609, to Tarragona in 1492 and then to Seville in 1480. Hanna's investigation will introduce her to the world of art forgers and religious fanatics and will make her questions her decisions in her work life and her personal life.

Geraldine Brooks is a wonderful story teller and I know that if you read this book you will love it as much as I do. I read a lot of historical fiction but there was something really different about this one. So I can really only say "BELIEVE THE HYPE" this is a good book. Will it be the best book of 2008? It is way to early in the year for me to go that far but I do firmly believe it will be in my top 5 list for 2008.

If you would like a copy of People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks, give me a call at 800.366.7619 or order through our website,


Ellen said...

This is one the best books I have ever read. Whether you are a very literary reader or light reader, you will like this book. I literally could not stop reading it. When I was not reading it I was aggravated to the point of being completely put out. I sent this book to my father and he called me one morning to tell me "Ellen I had to get out of bed at two o'clock this morning so I could read some more of this book." I am willing to bet money that if you buy this book you will not only love it you will become a complete advocate of it and try to make everyone read it. Geraldine Brooks can write a damn good book!!!

Ellen said...
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