Books: “People of the Book” by Geraldine Brooks (2021)
Now that the world is becoming vaccinated, one’s thoughts naturally turn to travel. Where next? London? The Middle East? Some far off dive spot in Indonesia? Soon you will once again have 154 counties to choose from (good news for us, we’re only up to 56).
No matter where your dreams may lead you, i’ll warrant you won’t have as interesting a hegira as the Sarajevo Haggadah, written and illustrated nine centuries ago in medieval Spain—and the subject of Geraldine Brooks’ remarkable novel “People of the Book.”
Who’d a thunk the travails of Hanna, a snarky Australian rare book expert would hold me rapt? Certainly not I. Hana is given the task of validating the authenticity of a volume that made its way from the Muslim enclaves of pre-inquisition Spain, to the ghettos of Venice in 1609, to fin-de-siecle Vienna. From there, it was smuggled into Sarajevo during WWII, when it survived a book burning by the Nazis and 50 years later the Bosnian wars of the late 1990s.
For old-movie fans, this book has all the glamor and mystery of Max Ophuls’ “The Earrings of Madame D.” For those of you who want the thrill of a good old-fashioned John Grisham spy novel (written waaay better), POTB will more than suffice.
Most of all, it is the story of the struggle to save a sacred work against all odds. It is most worthy of your attention. Certainly was mine.