Reviews for People of the Book : A Novel

AudioFile Reviews 2008 June/July
Narrator Edwina Wren is an Australian, as are this book's author and its heroine, Hannah Heath. So that's a match. Hannah is flown to war-torn Sarajevo to restore an ancient, priceless Haggadah. The sacred manuscript has been sent like a cork down the bloody torrent of history. The story's characters and accents vary widely, and Wren rises magnificently to the challenge. The German officers don't just want the manuscript, they "vont" it. "Let me see your chewish manuscripts . . ." Wren's agile liquid voice is dipped in sugar. This too is a match, since the survival of the text is proof of the heroic ecumenism of book lovers. The opening inscription is from Henrich Heine: "There, where one burns books, one in the end burns men." B.H.C. (c) AudioFile 2008, Portland, Maine

BookPage Reviews 2009 January
People of the Book

Brooks, the Pulitzer-Prize winning author of March (2005), blends mystery and history in this splendid novel. At the center of the story is an actual Jewish religious work called the Sarajevo Haggadah, one of the first texts of its kind to feature illuminated images. The volume endured several centuries' worth of religious conflicts and wars due to the vigilance of a brave group of individuals, who endangered their lives in order to preserve it. This fascinating fictionalization of the Haggadah's survival features Hanna Heath, a rare-books specialist in Sarajevo who is working to restore the text. Over the course of her labors, Hanna finds that the book reveals clues about itself and its background. Through small discoveries in the volume—a wine stain, a strand of hair, some salt crystals—Hanna is able to research the text's mysteries from a scientific standpoint. But these efforts only serve to lead her deep into sinister territory. In addition to Hanna's spine-tingling discoveries about the Haggadah, readers are treated to accounts of critical incidents in its remarkable history, which are presented in the form of short, beautifully crafted chapters. The Haggadah's story is compelling in itself, yet Brooks fleshes out the narrative many clever elements of suspense and an appealing love story. Complex yet wonderfully readable, this is first-rate literary fiction.

A reading group guide is included in the book. Copyright 2009 BookPage Reviews.