Thoughts on “People of the Book”

A historical fiction novel by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Geraldine Brooks.

People of the Book follows the rare book expert Hanna Heath in her restoration of the ancient Sarajevo Haggadah, and the journey the book has endured throughout its centuries of exile and war.

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Opening Line: “I might as well say, right from the jump: it wasn’t my usual kind of job.”

The novel flows seamlessly through the modern world Hanna Heath is in (1996) and the past life of the Haggadah, ranging from the Spanish convivencia to the Spanish Inquisition, WWII and it’s latest rescue: the war in Bosnia.

Creative Flow: 5/5

The main theme I took away from this novel was the massive influence that discrimination has had on history. The novel itself is littered with examples of racial and religious intolerance; and, it’s incredibly disheartening to realize how much these stories of injustice resonate with my perception of today’s society. I will never know Brooks reasoning behind the book, but if her intent was to encourage my learning and acceptance of different religions, history and the written word, she hit the nail on the head.

Turning Me Into a Historical Fiction Nerd: 5/5

The only rift I have with the novel is that Ms. Brooks has developed these lovely characters that I fell in love with. I want to know more about them and their journey! I understand that developing them anymore than she already has wouldn’t lift the novel any higher, but I think it would be a fascinating idea to publish short stories about the characters after the Haggadah has reached them. I kept trying to puzzle together the Haggadah’s journey to Hanna Heath, but there were some areas that were left out because they really wouldn’t have anything to do with the novel’s main plot. Alas, I will be sad that I’ll never know what Ms. Brooks thinks, but at least I’ll be able daydream about what might have happened.

Personal Thoughts:

I could not get enough of this novel. I devoured it in merely 4 days. It’s been a long time since I properly fell in love with a book, and this one did not disappoint. Each ‘chapter’ enticed me and I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next. Also, the conclusion of the novel was a brilliant plot twist; kudos to Ms. Brooks!

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“[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

Questions for further Discussion:

1.) Where do you see example of multi-ethnic or interfaith acceptance in the book?

2.) What drives the examples of hateful intolerance that we see in the book?

3.) Which force do you see as strong in human history–acceptance or intolerance? Why?

4.) Does humanity have the capacity to live and let live?

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