This was the first Geraldine Brooks book I read. Since then I have bought and read ‘Caleb’s Crossing’. I found that one boring and donated it to Lifeline.
In short, the book contains five short stories around the creation and saving of a Jewish Haggadah (a prayer book) that has become regarded as a national treasure in war-torn Sarajevo. The stories are interwoven around each little piece of evidence that is discovered as Hanna Heath, a renowned book conservator, tries to restore the book and write a scientific paper about it. The back cover describes the story as a ‘gripping and moving novel about war, art, love and survival’. It is and that combination appealed to me and kept me wanting to read more. At its core is a love story and the main character, Hanna’s, family has as many secrets as those involved in the back stories of the book’s creation and survival.
While at first the back stories seem separate there are connections between them as we trace the book back from 1996 to its beginnings. The earliest story, ‘A White Hair’, appealed to me the most. As I read it, I just felt more immersed in it than the others. Each story though, has its surprising twists and turns.
There is a villain and when revealed, it is a most unanticipated one. That is only what we readers expect from good novelists.
As a Baby Boomer Personal Stylist, this particular sentence created a vivid and amusing picture for me – ‘Frau Zweig looked like a rainbow lorikeet locked up by mistake in an aviary of pigeons.’ I just may borrow it (with acknowledgment, of course). A good book does this. Its words seep into you and expand your outlook, your knowledge, your speaking and your own writing.
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