Thursday, July 2, 2009

And Isn't It Ironic

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
This book is inspired by the Sarajevo Haggadah, which is a version of the Haggadah that was original written in the 1400s and the original still exists today. (In case you didn't know, a Haggadah is the Jewish prayer book used to lead a Passover Sedar.) One significant point is that the book includes illuminations, and while illuminations were common in Christian Bibles, they are very uncommon in Jewish texts. Very little is known about the history of this book and why it was illustrated and written. We do know it survived the Spanish Inquisition in 1492, that a Catholic priest saved the book from being burned with his signature in the 1600s, and that it made it through the Holocaust without being destroyed while in Sarajevo.

The book is a fictional tale surround fictional women who was given the job of restoring the book in the 1990s. As she inspects the book she finds several clues that might give a sign as to something in the books past. With every piece of evidence she finds the narration switches and we get to see what in history produced that stain or change to the book in the past. We then get to see a wide range of stories from a wide range of people, showing how each person left a mark on this book.

What I found interesting with each flashback was that it covered a period of time I knew little about. When I think of Sarajevo I always think of the aftermath of the cold war. But this books shows what it was like for Jews during the Holocaust in Sarajevo. While I have read I large number of books based during this time period, the was the first I've read focusing on Western European Jews. There is a chapter mentioning the Jews in Venice during the 1600s. Again this is a time period I enjoy reading about, but normally read books surrounding the Kings & Queens of England.

A second interesting aspect of this book is some of the science used during the restoration parts. It similar in a way to an episode of CSI, where they are able to take a single piece of evidence and piece together the whole crime.

I bet you're wondering about the title? As I've said the central plot line to People of the Book is book restoration. While I left my book in the car when I was working as normally. I sometimes read books on my lunch hour, and always like to have the one I'm reading handy. Well, the Louisiana heat and humidity was not kind to my book. It actually melted in the car! The glue that was holding all the pages to the cover just kind of disappeared. And everytime I tried to read more, the pages themselves unconnected. I will say that this book is currently in 9 separate pieces... or 10, one more section broke in half as I was counting. Since I borrowed this book from my mom, well, Sorry Mom! Maybe I can get the main character from the book to come and restore it for me?


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