Thursday, March 26, 2009

Review: People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

book 4 of 5 for the Jewish Literature Challenge
book 4 of 10 for the Orbis Terrarum 2009 Challenge
book 7 of 10 for the Book Awards Challenge II
genre: fiction/historical fiction
rating: 4/5

A centuries old manuscript is at the crux of this book - illustrated and written in Hebrew, it's a once-in-a-lifetime chance for Australian conservationist Hanna Heath. Her conservation efforts lead her to clues within the book that shed light on who might have handled the book, where it traveled from and who drew the amazing illuminations. The narrative does one of my favorite things: switches us from chapter to chapter between the present time period and different periods of the book's history: each clue Hanna finds is more background about the book and the hands that have held it.

For the most part, it is a gripping story. We travel through centuries of time and all over the world as we follow Hanna and her book. Some sections were more engaging than others (a few were a bit raunchy), but it always kept my attention and I was always pleased whether a chapter took me back to Hanna or to somewhere (and sometime) new. The clues themselves were interesting and parts of the book felt like an episode of CSI or some other forensics tv show, but since I like that, it added to the book for me.

Hanna is a challenging character, bordering on emotionally dysfunctional. Sometimes her personality grated on me - and other times I really could relate to her. I like how she made a point of explaining her "Aussi-ness" and differentiated, at times, between American/British/Australian ways of thinking and doing things. Her back-story and the things she learns about her past along the way flowed well enough with the book plot and I never wanted to put it down.

While the ending wasn't what I'd imagined it would be, it worked. I thought this was a good read.

11 comments:

bermudaonion said...

Great review. I have this book on my wish list.

Tricia said...

I thought this book was great too. My book club picked it last night to read for next month.

tuulenhaiven said...

I've been curious about this book for awhile. Brooks is an author I usually like. I'll have to find a copy - thanks for the review.

-fellow Orbis Terrarum traveler

Laura said...

I've had this book on my list since it was first published. I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed it! I'll just have to skim past the few "rauncy" parts. :)

Hedgie said...

Thanks for reviewing this one; I just picked it up a few days ago and haven't had time to read it yet. Now I'm definitely looking forward to doing so.

Heather said...

Would you believe I still haven't finished this one? Man. I have no time to read lately. (I think that really means I have not been justifying the time to read.) Anyway, I'm about half-way through (in the Venice chapter) and been enjoying it thoroughly (except for the raunchy bits you mentioned).

Nicole said...

I was so absorbed with the stories of the people, a little less so with Hanna, but I definitely enjoyed her more as the book went on. The ending was kind of out of left field, but I agree that this is an enjoyable read.

Trish said...

I've had this one sitting on my shelf for a year now and I need to get to it! I'm glad you liked it so much--sounds intriguing. Too bad about the raunch--not sure why authors feel they need to put that in their books.

Love the new header!

One Swede Read said...

This one is on my TBR-pile!! I may use this one for the OT-challenge too. Thanks for the review!!

Diane said...

This is one book I've been meaning to read! BTW: I really like your blog.

3M said...

I bought this book when it first came out and *still* haven't read it yet. Must remedy that.

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