Friday, March 06, 2009

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

After a recent read of March by Brooks, which I thoroughly enjoyed, People of the Book seemed like a real treat. After all, it was about books and librarians – two of my favorite topics.

Essentially, the book has two parts. One, the story of Hanna Heath, a rare book conservator who specializes in ancient Semitic manuscripts, and her relationship with her mother woven into a commission to examine and repair a 15th century haggadah known as the Sarejevo Haggadah. The other part of the book tells a fictionalized account of the book’s provenance.

The second part was interesting, but the first part was cheesy and smarmy. Hanna, at times, acted like a bitch, a femme fatale, a big baby, and an egotistical brat. She often made comments like, “Even in crummy establishments in London, you can generally get proper tea, in a pot, unlike the bag on the side of a cup of tepid water that you often get even in high-end American places” (268). Now the comment about “crummy establishments in London” might ring true, but I have eaten in numerous “high-end American” restaurants, and I frequently order hot tea, and it always comes in a pot with water just off the boiling point.

Another instance finds our heroine sobbing on the floor of the Tate Gallery in London when she sees one of her father’s paintings, yet a few pages later, she declares, “I am not a soggy Kleenex kind of person” (271).

The history of the book fascinated me, particularly some harrowing scenes during the Spanish Inquisition involving waterboarding, yes that waterboarding. Only a moron or a liar would not answer a resounding “Yes!” to the question, “Is waterboarding torture?”

When I read it again, and I might do that, I think I will skip the pages of the drama queen, and focus on the book. 4 stars – 1 star penalty to Hanna, you are out of the game!

--Chiron, 3/6/09

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