Geraldine Brooks Watch #1

Geraldine Brooks has just published her new novel, People of the Book - her first since her 2005 novel March won the Pulitzer Prize. Naturally she is receiving a lot of attention. To provide some background on the novel here is the blurb from the publisher's page.

"When Hanna Heath gets a call in the middle of the night in her Sydney home about a precious medieval manuscript which has been recovered from the smouldering ruins of war-torn Sarajevo, she knows she is on the brink of the experience of a lifetime. A renowned book conservator, she must now make her way to Bosnia to start work on restoring The Sarajevo Haggadah, a Jewish prayer book -- to discover its secrets and piece together the story of its miraculous survival. But the trip will also set in motion a series of events that threaten to rock Hanna's orderly life, including her encounter with Ozren Karamen, the young librarian who risked his life to save the book.

"As meticulously researched as all of Brooks' previous work, People of the Book is a gripping and moving novel about war, art, love and survival."

Clare McHugh, in "The New York Sun", does compare the novel to The Da Vinci Code, as seems inevitable, and finds it much more enjoyable. "In reality, People of the Book is of much more substance than Dan Brown's overwrought, silly, and ultimately distasteful thriller could ever hope to be -- yet Ms. Brooks's work is just as entertaining. She has accomplished something remarkable, fashioning a story that is compelling and eminently readable, even as she maintains high intentions and an earnest purpose."

In "The Guardian", Ursula Le Guin isn't quite so enthusiastic: "Her performance will satisfy many readers. The tale is full of complex twists and turns, with even a bit of mystery plot towards the end; there's sex, a rather tenuous love story and the obligatory descriptions of acts of violence...The story sprawls, but it is all firmly planned and plotted -- possibly too firmly...Full of action but with no leavening of humour, no psychological revelations, no vivid language to focus
description, the chapters grind on. Most unhappily for a historical novel, there is little sensitivity to the local colour of thought and emotion, that openness to human difference which brings the past alive."

"Publisher's Weekly" concludes: "Brooks is too good a novelist to belabor her political messages, but her depiction of the Haggadah bringing together Jews, Christians and Muslims could not be more timely. Her gift for storytelling, happily, is timeless."

Janet Maslin in "The New York Times" finds that "the intense bibliographic appeal of People of the Book turns out to be a mixed blessing. It lands Ms. Brooks neck-deep in research. It overburdens her tale in ways that make it more admirable than gripping."

And finally, Ami Sands Brodoff, in "The Globe and Mail" considers it an "epic": "'Haggadah' stems from the Hebrew root hgd, 'to tell,' and the rescue and preservation of the Sarajevo Haggadah dramatized in People of the Book brings home with fearsome clarity how inextricably linked are words and human life: the people who created the book, owned it and later rescued and preserved it endured pogroms, the Inquisition, exile, genocide and war."

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on January 22, 2008 3:16 PM.

Sean Lindsay on The Great Australian Novel was the previous entry in this blog.

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