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
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.