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Fictional history

Updated: Jun 28, 2018

Back in November, I met a friend that suggested that I read a book entitled, People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. The story creates a fictional backstory of a real book called the Sarajevo Haggadah which was written in the mid-15th century, likely in Spain. The book transverses the centuries from the 1400s to the mid-2000s telling the story of how the book came to be hidden by the head Sarajevo librarian during the Bosnian War in the 1990s.

I brought the book with me to Spain--it was mentioned in my What I'm Packing post--and it sat unread until the end of last week. These past few days, it's been a little overcast and rainy so I spent time in the afternoons finishing this book.

Usually, when I get hooked by a book, I don't put it down; I stay up until the wee hours reading and giving myself arbitrary stopping points so that I can get some sleep. However, I typically ignore these self-imposed cutoffs and blow right through the book cursing myself for reading until 5am and sad that my relationship with the characters has ended. I've done this since I was 9 or 10...the first book I remember staying up all night to read was A Wrinkle in Time (I cannot wait to see the movie in March!).

People of the Book was interesting because, while I did enjoy the story, I wasn't compelled to rush through it to the end. I was more intrigued by the backstory of the book than the modern-day protagonist and primary narrator, Hanna. I found Hanna to be self-indulgent and self-pitying to the point of being distracting. Conversely, the historical characters were what drove me to keep reading. The stories of the tragic yet compassionate painter, the pious scribe and his wise daughter, the beautiful Muslim woman that hid the Jew in her midst, her loving husband who risked his family for a book, these are the characters that brought the story to life.

If you are looking for a nice diversion, People of the Book would be a quick read. If you're interested in reading it, please let me know; I have a copy that I'm happy to pass along.


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