Shortlisted for the 2009 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards
When Hanna Heath gets a call in the middle of the night in her Sydney home about a precious medieval manuscript that has been recovered from the smouldering ruins of war-torn Sarajevo, she knows she is on the brink of the experience of a lifetime.
A renowned book conservator, she must now make her way to Bosnia to start work on restoring the Sarajevo Haggadah -- a Jewish prayer book -- to discover its secrets and piece together the story of its miraculous survival. But the trip will also set in motion a series of events that threaten to rock Hanna’s orderly life, including her encounter with Ozren Karamen, the young librarian who risked his life to save the book.
As meticulously researched as all of Brooks’ previous work, People of the Book is a gripping and moving novel about war, art, love and survival.
‘an imaginative tour de force’ Good Weekend
‘intelligent, thoughtful, gracefully written and original’ Washington Post
‘a fearless and engaging writer’ Courier-Mail
About the Author
Geraldine Brooks is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning March, Year of Wonders, and the non-fiction works Nine Parts of Desire and Foreign Correspondence. Previously, Brooks was a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal in Bosnia, Somalia, and the Middle East. Born and raised in Australia, she divides her time between Sydney and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. She lives with her husband, the author Tony Horwitz, and their two sons, Nathaniel and Bizuayehu.
From 1480 Seville to 1996 Sarajevo, a priceless scripture is chased by fanatics political and religious. Its recovery makes for an enthralling historical mystery. In Sydney, ace (and gorgeous) old-book conservator Hannah Heath gets a 2 a.m. phone call. She's summoned to Sarajevo to check out a 15th-century Spanish-made Haggadah, a codex gone missing in Bosnia during a 1992 siege. The document is a curiosity, its lavish illuminations appearing to violate age-old religious injunctions against any kind of illustration. Remarkably, it's Muslim museum librarian Ozren Karaman who rescued the Hebrew artifact from furious shelling. Questioning (and bedding) Ozren, Hannah examines the Haggadah binding and from clues embedded there - an insect's wings, wine stains, white hair - reconstructs the book's biography. And it's an epic. Chapter by chapter, each almost an independent story, the chronicle unwinds - of the book's changing hands from those of anti-Nazi partisans dreaming of departing for Palestine from war-torn Croatia, from schemers in 1894 Vienna, home, despite Freud and Mahler, of virulent anti-Semitism. Perhaps the best chapter takes place in 1609 Venice. There, not-so-grand Inquisitor Domenico Vistorini, a heretic hunter with a drinking problem, contends in theological disputation with brilliant rabbinical star Judah Aryeh. The two strike up an unlikely alliance to save the book, even while Vistorini at first blanches at its art - a beautiful depiction of the glowing sun, prophesying, the hysterical priest assumes, Galileo's heliocentric blasphemy. Tracing those illustrations back to their origin point, Hannah unkinks a series of fascinating conundrums - and learns, even more fiercely, to prize the printed page.Rich suspense based on a true-life literary puzzle, from the Pulitzer Prize - winning Brooks (March, 2005, etc.). (Kirkus Reviews)