**People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (2008)

This was a lovely read, one of those books that you savor rather than try to fly through.  It’s the story of a Jewish haggadah, a religious text for the Passover Seder, that turns up in Sarajevo in 1996.  The main character, Hanna, an Australian book conservator is called upon to inspect the book, do some minor repair, and try to trace its history.  So with a few artifacts that she uncovers during her inspection–an insect wing, a single hair, a wine stain–she researches where the book might have been and in whose hands.  Thus the title: People of the book.  The book’s chapters alternate between the present, with Hanna tracing each clue she discovers, and the past, where the story leaps into scenes from the book’s history and the people who handled it: the Muslim librarian who sheltered the book from the Nazi’s, the bookbinder who sold the book’s silver clasps to pay for his medical treatment, the catholic priest whose signature saved it from the Inquisition, the Jewish girl–dressed as a boy–who painted its marvelous illustrations on the parchment, the scribe who bought the illustrations, wrote the Hebrew text and had the book beautifully bound as a gift to his niece.  From the 1400’s to the late 1900’s, we see the books’ journey through Seville, Tarragona, Venice, Vienna, Sarajevo, and Jerusalem.   Great writing, great story, and even some historical truth to parts of the narrative.  (fiction/historical fiction)

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