title: People of the Book [purchase here]
author: Geraldine Brooks
genre: literary fiction
originally published: 2008
source: New York Public Library
Oh, Ms. Brooks. I had *such* high hopes for this book. I mean, Pulitzer Prize winning author. Renown journalist. I had heard her interviewed on the Diane Rehm show and she spoke with such grace and authority. All the things that I love love love in an author are all there! I *really* wanted to enjoy this book…
…but the story was just so easy! It fit together just too damn well and I had a hard time staying in the story.
The premise of the book is incredibly compelling: Hanna, who specializes in the preservation and restoration of ancient manuscripts, is commissioned to restore the Sarajevo Haggadah, an intricately illustrated Hebrew text, which Brooks spent time researching for The New Yorker. The story Brooks creates hinges on discoveries Hanna makes as she examines the haggadah: a white hair, a wine stain and a fragment of insect wing provide the jump-off points for Brooks to relate how each became a part of the book, thus telling the stories of the “people of the book.”
What I liked: this book was incredibly well researched. Brooks’ journalistic background infuses each sentence with credibility and weight, which should make it easy for the reader to be drawn completely into the world of the story…
…but, as I said before: every aspect of plot, every twist and turn is just too perfect. I could see what was coming next from a mile away, and I, personally, *hate* that in a book! I want to be challenged when I read. I want to be surprised. I want to be completely taken into the world of the story, and it’s hard to do that when the plot moves like a kindergarten child’s jigsaw puzzle.
The worst part was, there were moments of description and action that were positively beautiful, incredibly transportive…and then I would be jerked back to reality by easy, obvious plot choices.
I’m not ready to give up on Brooks. I have March sitting on my nightstand, which is the novel she won the Pulitzer for. I also started Year of Wonders on the train home from my weekend in Baltimore.
Rubric rating: 5. It was ok. It would have been far higher had Brooks made less obvious, easy choices with regard to the plot. But I’m determined to keep an open mind as I approach her other work.