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People of the Book

People of the Book

The Sarajevo Haggadah is one of the oldest surviving Jewish illuminated texts. Inspired by what the haggadah has been through, Geraldine Books wrote People of the Book to understand its complex past. She writes in a New Yorker article entitled The Book of Exodus (a really interesting read about the historical aspects of the haggadah), "quite apart from the opulence and artistry of the illustrations, the fact that they exist at all is extraordinary." The haggadah goes from creation in Spain in the mid-fourteenth century, survives the Alhambra Decree (Ferdinand & Isabella's expulsion of all Spanish Jews), makes its way to Venice where Hebrew books were routinely destroyed by the Pope's Inquisition in public burnings (a Catholic priest inspected the Haggadah in 1609 and "apparently found nothing objectionable in the Haggadah," according to Brooks), then it goes to Bosnia & Herzegovina and in 1894 a Jewish family offered it for sale. This is when it enters the public eye, and until this moment "art historians widely believed that figurative painting had been entirely suppressed among medieval jews." (x) Saved from the Nazis and during the Bosnian War, the journey this haggadah has been on is nothing short of remarkable. One can only imagine the stories behind them. Each of these historical events is given a chapter in Brooks' novel. The readers come to understand the history through the story of Hanna, a rare book expert set to conserve the famed haggadah. When Hanna discover tiny artifacts in the haggadah (an insect wing, wine stains, a white hair), the story of the book is slowly revealed to the reader. I do admit that parts of the flashbacks were sort of boring (they're not exactly flashbacks- mini-stories woven into the larger one) only because I wish it had focused more on the main character, Hanna. However, it was still a really interesting read and the mini-stories definitely added to the overall story of the haggadah. Rating: ★★★★

The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch

Tell The Wolves I'm Home

Tell The Wolves I'm Home