Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Sunday, November 15, 2009

"People of the Book" by Geraldine Brooks

I liked this one right from the start! First of all, I nearly always love books about people who love books. I automatically identify with those characters. Second of all, the stage was set for a mystery to be woven into the story. Mystery is good! Of course it wasn't your garden-variety murder mystery, but it began with clues (the tiny artifacts found in the binding of the Haggadah, the book of the title), each of which developed into its own story. This book actually encompassed several beautiful, fully-realized tales within the framework of the main narrative.

I will admit I was somewhat put off by how quickly the main character, Hanna, jumped into bed with Ozren. It seemed like five seconds after the thought crossed her mind, she went for it. But once I remembered that I'm not Hanna, and a little more about her character was revealed, I decided I could handle it.

I actually felt bad for Hanna when I got to the part where she was grumpy and complaining to Raz over dinner. She was frustrated by the fact that she probably would never know much detail about who had handled or owned the book. I felt kind of guilty because I got to hear all about the book's backstory and Hanna only knew the bare-bones version!

The one part of the book that annoyed me was the half-page episode near the end when Hanna and Ozren realize they have left the fake Haggadah on the floor of the display room, and they must hurry to retrieve it before the guards return. That seemed like an unnecessary bit of fluff used to try to add excitement--something that belongs in a screenplay, and not in this otherwise well-written book. Had I the good fortune to be an editor, I would certainly have excised that part.

Now I'm almost even more excited to read two other books by Brooks: One, called Year of Wonders, mainly because now I know I like the author's style, and the friend who loaned this Brooks book to me assured me the other was even better (I just couldn't have it yet because she was in the middle of re-reading it). The other is called March and has the most interesting premise for a novel that I've come across in a long while: It is all about what happened to the father of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women while they were sitting at home waiting for letters from him!

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