Oct 26, 2014

People of the Book

by Geraldine Brooks

A woman working in the very specialized field of book conservation is brought into Sarajevo to study and write a report on a very rare, ancient Jewish book called a haggadah. She finds bits and fragments of things within the binding and pages- a piece of insect wing, a grain of salt, a single hair, a dark stain and so on. These fragments get taken in turn to other specialists who can reveal something about their nature, and from that historical fiction is spun about where the book came from, where it had traveled, who held on to it and how it changed hands. This book had high promise for me, but I got bored and then disgusted with it. The character of the conservator became annoying. And her constant affairs with colleagues. And her nasty relationship with her mother. After fifty pages I began skimming. At first I was reading the present-day portions (still interested in the details of preserving very old books) and more or less skipping the historical parts which quickly became dense with history too light on character development- I simply could not become interested in any of them. The first piece about a young woman who joins resistant forces hiding in the mountains during the Bosnian war, held me. The second one, about some depraved people (equally desperate) in Vienna, did not.  That's when I started just thumbing through. I did pick up again the final historical chapter about the actual illustrator, way back in ancient times, the description of the immense labor and time it took to create such beautiful pages was interesting, the constant drama and liaisons were not. Then I started reading the current narrative again and instantly lost focus when it turned into a mystery and crime scene at the end. I didn't want to be reading that kind of story. And I'm not, anymore. Moving on.

Abandoned       372 pages, 2008

7 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I heard a lot about this one when it first came out. Too bad it didn't live up to the hype.

Sam Sattler said...

I did finish this one several years ago, but I remember being very underwhelmed by it and happy when I was done.

ardentreader said...

I abandoned this one. Just could not get into the tale.

Jeane said...

Glad to know I wasn't the alone having an unhappy reading experience with this one!

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

My mother loved the premise of this book and started to read it, and she ended up ditching it for many of the same reasons you did. So I've never been tempted to try it -- and I'm even less tempted now!

Trish said...

I have this one on my shelf (have for years!) and so I'm curious now! I'm so sorry you didn't enjoy this one. It's terrible to be reading something that you're not interested in. Have you read any of her others?

Jeane said...

Trish- This is the first book I've read by her. It didn't exactly encourage me to try any others.