Martin's Must Reads: 'People of the Book'

Apr 9, 2019

Have you ever found a random photo or feather or ticket in a borrowed  book and stopped to wonder if there was a story behind it? 

I’m Betty Martin with Martin’s Must Reads and if you have, then you must read People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks.

It’s a novel based on the fact of an ancient copy of the Haggadah, a Jewish text that lays out the order of the Passover Seder. This is an extremely precious, illuminated manuscript originally from medieval Spain.

In Brooks’ novel this rare 600 year old book, thought lost, has recently been found and Australian book conservator Hanna Heath has been commissioned  to restore it and in doing so,  discovers the secrets of its past.  She is a book archaeologist finding tiny, hidden clues: a white hair, an insect wing, missing clasps, a drop of salt, a wine stain.  She uses her conservator tools to date and place each item and, as she does, author Brooks fills in the details by taking the reader to that event. Each event gives a glimpse of both the long history of anti-Semitism and the struggle of women for independence.

Moving backward through time, Brooks relates how the Haggadah came to be lost, found and created beginning during the 1940 German occupation of Yugoslavia, then to 1894 Vienna, to 1609 Venice, to 1492 Barcelona and finally to  1480 Seville. This is a wonderful book both to read and to listen to.

I’m Betty Martin and if you love solving puzzles of how things came to be, then you must read People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks.