Monday, July 28, 2014

Book Review : "People of the Book" by Geraldine Brooks (All Lady July)

Before we start our all lady July post I wanted to tell you about my weekend. I was working taking tickets at a tiny county fair in the city where my husband grew up. I wanted some extra cash for my upcoming Mexico trip (less than 20 days away!) so this year I joined him in selling tickets at the gate. I know I've mentioned before that my math is bad, and making change for people on the spot is not one of my better skills. It went pretty okay. I hope I didn't accidentally give anyway too much or too little change too often! The best part of the time working was when it was slow I could sneak off and pet the little baby animals in the petting farm area. I think this was technically for children but I don't care. Each time I came back Josh patted down my pockets to make sure I didn't bring one back with me. I was mightily tempted. 

If the name Geraldine Brooks sounds familiar, it's because this isn't her first appearance on the blog. I reviewed her book "March" here.That book didn't tickle my fancy, but this one was better.

The book starts with Hanna, a book conserver who is called upon to preserve a newly rediscovered book in Bosnia. The book is a haggadah which is a book that Jews use to celebrate Passover. Hanna is intrigued by things she finds in the haggadah: wine stains, pieces of a insect, and more. The book flashes between Hanna making these discoveries, and back in time in the book's long history to see how the things in the book got there. (That was not a clear description, it will get more clear I hope).

I feel like if I tell you too much it ruin the unfolding of the book's mysteries so I will give it to you in broad strokes. Hanna's story takes part in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Then we move backwards chronologically in time and in the life of the book.

-We start in the 1940s with a young Jewish girl who has an encounter with the finished book as she is fleeing from certain death as the Nazis invade her town. The most heart wrenching part of the whole story was just a few short sentences in this section. Oh sadness.

-The part of the journey is in Vienna in 1894. It involves one of the most beautiful parts of the haggadah and an embittered doctor who helps the most prestigious of Viennese society who are afflicted with venereal diseases.So if you're eating lunch while reading the books be cautious because there are descriptions of penises with "craters" and oozing pustules on private places. The doctor in this section kind of irritates me.

Oh Vienna. Come for the delicious baked goods, stay for the crotch rot.

-The wine stains come from Venice in 1609 courtesy of a drunken priest with a mysterious past and an identity crisis.

-A girl with a secret life that she uses to get away from her wretched family is our next stop in 1492 southern Spain.

-Cats become important to our story in 1480 Seville, the very beginning of the haggadah's life.

I really liked this book, which makes me glad because my last run in with Geraldine March was not as good. My small complaint is that I think her secondary characters are more interesting than her main characters. I always wanted to hear more about them and their stories then what was given in the book, though one of the secondary character's stories does get tied up quite nicely.I give it a 4 out of 5, so Miss Brooks and I are even steven. Also realized that her husband is an author I thoroughly enjoy, Tony Horowitz!


  1. Ohhh, I would be dead in the water making change for people. Ouch!

    And I loved Brooks' novel, Year of Wonders, though I haven't read anything else! This one has always sounded interesting but I've never snatched it up. I'm keeping my eyes peeled at the used bookstore now.

    1. It was mostly okay, but then someone would hand me a $100 bill to pay for a $6 gate fee.Like really? You're almost certainly going to be shorted a few dollars.

      It's definitely worth a read! Now I'll have to try a few more of her books since I'm batting .500 with her now.

  2. I liked People of the Book well enough, but wasn't as wowed by it as I expected to be. Her most recent book, Caleb's Crossing, is set in Massachusetts, so I really should read that one!

    1. Yeah, I think for me to pick up another of her books the subject matter would have to be really near and dear to my heart. But I did enjoy this one.


Thank you so much for your comment. I'd love to talk books with you!