Penguin, December 2008
Hanna Heath, an Australian rare book expert, has been offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, rescued from Serb shelling during the Bosnian war. Priceless and beautiful, the book is one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with images. When Hanna discovers a series of tiny artifacts in its ancient binding -- an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair -- she begins to unlock the
book's mysteries, ushering in its exquisite and atmospheric past,
from its salvation back to its creation through centuries of exile
Inspired by a true story, People of the Book is a novel of sweeping historical grandeur and intimate emotional intensity -- an acclaimed and ambitious work from a Pulitzer Prize-winning author.
paperback | ISBN: 9780143115007 | Publication Date: December 2008
"Intense, gripping . . . [People of the Book] is a tour de force."
--San Francisco Chronicle
"There's a romance between Brooks and the world, and her writing is as full of heart and curiosity as it is intelligence and judgment."
--The Boston Globe
"Intelligent, thoughtful, gracefully written and original . . . Brooks tells a believable and engaging story."
--The Washington Post
"[A] marvelously intertwined narrative, with one strand tied to the contemporary world and the other leading us back into European history, into wars and inquisitions and family tragedies, all of this making up a vividly narrated, powerfully emotional quest."
--The Dallas Morning News
"Geraldine Brooks' novel People of the Book arrives with high expectations. Booksellers are comparing it to The Da Vinci Code and calling it the first literary hit of 2008. Does Brooks deliver? Yes, and with less flash and more substance than Da Vinci . . . If Brooks becomes the new patron saint of booksellers, she deserves it. The stories of the Sarajevo Haggadah, both factual and fictional, are stirring testaments to the people of many faiths who risked all to save this priceless work."
"Complex and moving."
--The New Yorker
"In People of the Book [Brooks] has constructed a marvelously intertwined narrative, with one strand tied to the contemporary world and the other leading us back into European history, into wars and inquisitions and family tragedies, all of this making up a vividly narrated, powerfully emotional quest."
--The Dallas Morning News
"[Brooks] has accomplished something remarkable, fashioning a story that is compelling and eminently readable, even as she maintains high intentions and an earnest purpose."
--The New York Sun
"Deep into Geraldine Brooks' exhilarating new novel -- a book that may well set the standard by which 2008 fiction will be measured -- there's an intriguing aside about how something can captivate us and we 'fall down a rabbit hole and the rest of the world disappears.' People of the Book, which treats six centuries of Jewish and world experience, has that effect . . . Brooks' novel meticulously, lovingly amalgamates mystery and history with the personal story of its heroine, rare-book expert and conservator Hanna Heath . . . Vibrant."
"Have you ever picked up a book at a used book store and had a receipt fall out, discovered a phone number scribbled on a note stuffed into the spine, or read an endearing inscription to someone who no longer valued the sentiment? Did it make you wonder about the lives of those who had palmed those pages before you? People of the Book capitalizes on that kind of intrigue."
"Stellar . . . compelling story. Brooks seamlessly moves from the minuscule -- the 'tiny specks' -- to examine in human terms the larger events from the thirteenth century and into the twenty-first: the Inquisition, the 'rise of anti-Semitism, Nazism, and the Holocaust, religious wars and forced exiles, in Bosnia, Venice, Barcelona, and Seville. She does so with impeccable descriptions as illuminated as the Haggadah itself."
--The Miami Herald
"Brooks . . . is well-prepared to tackle this engrossing tale. Brooks' knowledge of art and eye for detail enliven the historical vignettes."
--The Charlotte Observer
"This erudite but suspenseful novel is going to become one of the most popular and successful works of fiction in the new year."
--Alan Cheuse, NPR's All Things Considered
"People of the Book . . . sweeps us irresistibly away . . . hugely entertaining yarn."
"Intense, gripping new novel. People of the Book, like her Pulitzer Prize-winning previous novel, March, is a tour de force that delivers a reverberating lesson gleaned from history. . . . It's a brilliant, innately suspenseful structure, and one that allows Brooks to show off her remarkable aptitude for assimilating research and conveying a wide range of settings. Also on full display is her keen sense of dramatic pacing."
--San Francisco Chronicle
"Brooks demonstrates a gift for balancing research with a command of pacing and plot."
--Los Angeles Times
"Geraldine Brooks -- author of two terrific novels, Year of Wonders and the Pulitzer Prize-winning March -- has outdone herself. . . . The best historical fiction manages to illuminate the past while also commenting on the era in which the novel is written, and People of the Book poses questions that are both ancient and contemporary. . . . [It] succeeds so brilliantly as historical fiction . . . because it plunges us sensibly into distant, alien pasts, and it presses concerns that are still very much with us today."
"Like her fictional heroine, Brooks demonstrates her own imaginative power by dreaming up five centuries' worth of characters, all connected to the mystery and beauty of the Sarajevo Haggadah,"
--The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"Remarkable . . . People of the Book is well researched, extremely well written, and full of surprises. It is at once literary and a page-turner. The biggest problem I had was to temper my enthusiasm. I didn't want to sound too effusive. But I can't help myself; this is simply one of the best books I've read in I don't know how long."
--Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"Geraldine Brooks' third novel has the same powerful appeal as her bestsellers Year of Wonders and the Pulitzer Prize-winning March. . . . People of the Book shows the author's gift for entering difficult, pivotal times in history with a story so psychologically intimate and sensual that we feel we're there."
"A multilayered novel that shifts across centuries and continents. . . . In People of the Book, Brooks tosses out the tongs, grabs onto her plot, and doesn't let go."
--TimeOut New York
"A sprawling historical work -- based on an ancient Hebrew text -- that is richly imagined and at times almost unbearably exciting. . . . An ambitious book, a pleasure to read, and wholly successful in its attempt to give a sense of how miraculous, unlikely and ultimately binding the history of objects can be."
--Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
"People of the Book is an ambitious effort filled with many fascinating historical details, characters, and stories, and it's capable of casting a spell for many pages at a time."
--Rocky Mountain News
"Brooks skillfully sets the stage for everything that follows her information-packed yet highly readable opening chapter."
''Dazzling new novel . . . these narratives show Brooks' writing at her very best. . . . Her gift for storytelling, happily, is timeless."
"With an ingenuity equal to that standing behind her Pulitzer Prize-winning March . . . a marvelously evocative journey backward in time."
--Booklist (starred review)
"People of the Book is a marvelous novel, an exhilarating and beautifully written blend of mystery and history that is everything a certain pedestrian bestseller with 'Da Vinci' in the title purported to be, but wasn't. After taking Brooks' irresistible journey through time in the company of a fascinating old book, you may wish you could board the next plane to Sarajevo to see the real thing."
"Each story is engrossing and deftly woven into the narrative."
"Enthralling historical mystery . . . Rich suspense based on a true-life literary puzzle."
"Turn off the TV. Send your guests home and your kids to bed. Throw away your tickets to that play. Make yourself a cup of tea or a drink. Now, sit down and read People of the Book . . . a beautiful book."
--Washington Jewish Week
"I have a feeling that this book is going to be memorable."
"Brooks, a former war correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, was in Bosnia during the siege of Sarajevo, and her ability to successfully render painful and detailed moments of horrible suffering and loss is everywhere apparent in these narratives. . . . Brooks' exploration and creation on what might have happened to the Haggadah is the heart of the matter here, and the stories she tells about its perseverance and preservation are stunning and certainly worth the 'telling.'"