Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I'm Reading and I Can't Get Up

This has been the summer of naught. No knitting, no spinning, no weaving, and next to no reading. What should have been finished in three days took almost three weeks. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks was not a difficult read by any means. I should have known it would not be a favorite for me; people were going on about this as they did with Water for Elephants, a much over lauded book in my humble opinion.
I truly enjoyed the structure of the book. Hanna Heath, a book conservator, is hired by the UN to stabilize and perform an analysis of the Sarajevo Haggadah. The book follows Hanna's search of the objects found hidden within the bindings of the book, her struggle with her mother - totally unnecessary, and her encounters with her old mentor and fellow scientists. And that is my friends, is flat. Unbelievable. Blah. I truly struggled with these sections when in comparison to the engaging sections of the 'people of the book'.
The history of the book is told through the lives of those who held it in their hands at some point in its journey. Lola, the Sarajevan Jew during the Nazi invasion of 1940; Dr. Hirschfeldt and his syphilitic bookbinder patient Mittl from 1894 Vienna; the flawed Venetian religious leaders Judah Aryeh and the inquisitor, Vistorini, of 1609; the heroic family of David Ben Shoushan living in Tarragona in 1492; and finally to the beginning in the Seville of 1480. These are the sections with voice. These are the sections that the reader races toward. And for the most part, each of the characters are different in feeling and complexity. The section I did not care for was the story of the haggadah's creator. That did not ring true; the two women portrayed in this section fell as flat as the story of Hanna.
This book was my pick for September's book club; hopefully, it shall make interesting reading. If nothing else, it did provide a huge amount of historical background on the ill treatment of Jews throughout European history. I had a scant knowledge of the Spanish Inquisition, but was ignorant of how far and long this period lasted.
But I do need to remember that anything this 'popular' is never anything that I end up loving. That's me. Contrary.

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