Jun 4, 2009

"People of the Book"

I just finished (last night since I couldn't fall asleep) reading "People of the Book" by Geraldine Brooks, and I have to say it's a pretty outstanding work of historical fiction.

The first half of the book is truly captivating, and I found it hard to put down while I was reading it. The second half of the book seemed a little contrived at points, especially toward the very end when it turned into a cheesy "who dun it" kind of storyline. I am guessing that Brooks probably had a lot of really lengthy, detailed chapters to begin with and was forced to edit them down -- that is the only explanation for how quickly the end of the book moved and how short and brief the final narratives were.

I do have to say, however, that of all the historical fiction I've read since Anita Diamant's brilliant and one-of-a-kind book "The Red Tent," Brooks' "People of the Book" is the best. It far surpasses the Rashi's Daughters books which were, to be completely honest, disappointing, and many other books of a similar flare.

I highly recommend the book, which takes a embellished look at the Sarajevo Haggadah -- how it was created, where, by whom, how it traveled from point A to B to C, how it survived many horrible historic events, and perhaps most interestingly, it details the secret lives of historic, important books. The imagined lives of the characters in Brooks' book are so life-like, so real, and I found myself automatically felt compassion and a connection to these historic Christian, Muslim, and Jewish figures.

So go get the book if you haven't. If you have read it? Let me know what you think. Right now on my docket I have "The Book of Names," a mystery novel I believe; John Updike's newest "My Father's Tears and Other Stories;" as well as "The Bible Code" by Michael Drosnin. Not sure which I'll start on first ... but amen for finally having a public library card!


mother in israel said...

Just finished it.
I liked it at first, but the scenarios, both the historical and the modern-day, became more and more fantastical and, at least the historical part, culturally unrealistic as the book went on.
One scene in particularly gave my husband and me a good laugh. Planning to post on it.

Daniel Saunders said...

I haven't read People of the Book, but I recently came across a replica of the Sarajevo Haggadah (I volunteer at the library of a Reform rabbinical college). It really is a beautiful book.

TMC said...

I read People of the Book last year sometime. I really enjoyed it and like the other books done by the same author. I share your opinion that it was probably a much longer book but was edited down to its quick conclusion.

toby said...

I read it about half a year ago and enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to. I don't know how historically accurate it was, but it was absolutely an entertaining read!

Ofir Hauptmann said...

Off topic, but this is awful--do not post without reviewing. Sad commentary on what I hope is a minority in Taglit:


Phyllis Sommer said...

i liked it too. but yes, i felt like there were some parts that were definitely outside the realm of "historical" fiction....

either way, tho, an enjoyable read.

Maggie Anton said...

I'm sorry you were disappointed in my "Rashi's Daughters" novels, but maybe it makes sense because I was disappointed in "People of the Book." why does every historical novel about Jews in medieval Spain seem to have an almost 'obligatory' torture scene from the Inquisition? There were so many other things going on then. And what was with the bizarre mother-daughter conflict? What purpose in the plot did that serve?

Maggie Anton

Chaviva said...

I think we're all on the same page here, yes?

@David I'm so jealous that you got to see even a replica!

@MomInIsrael I still need to read your post on it :)

@Maggie Thanks for your comments. I agree that the mom-daughter conflict was awkward and out of place, not to mention that the obligatory torture scene is a little tired!

@Ofir Your comment was random, but I watched that video and I am absolutely blown away at how obscene and disappointing it is. I can tell you that nothing, NOTHING like that went on on my trip. I think the problem is that a lot of the kids that go on these trips are 18 and 19 year olds who relish in being able to drink in Israel and who don't really have the maturity to appreciate the experience. It's upsetting.

Ofir Hauptmann said...

I was very upset by the video, too. Terribly. But you're right, a lot of these kids who go over there are just drinking and being idiots. I also think the interview shared a lot of the responsibility in egging these jerks on. I've seen the same in other countries, American kids drinking for the first time and either mouthing off or physically destroying things overseas. Thanks for addressing it.

Anonymous said...

The Bible Code. It's like proof of Lashon HaKodesh, and Hashem's incredible presence. Oh my gosh...it's the kind of book that you would love.

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