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View our feature on Geraldine Books’s People of the Book.

From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of March, the journey of a rare illuminated manuscript through centuries of exile and war

In 1996, Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, is offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, which has been rescued from Serb shelling during the Bosnian war. Priceless and beautiful, the book is one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with images. When Hanna, a caustic loner with a passion for her work, discovers a series of tiny artifacts in its ancient binding—an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair—she begins to unlock the book’s mysteries. The reader is ushered into an exquisitely detailed and atmospheric past, tracing the book’s journey from its salvation back to its creation.

In Bosnia during World War II, a Muslim risks his life to protect it from the Nazis. In the hedonistic salons of fin-de-siècle Vienna, the book becomes a pawn in the struggle against the city’s rising anti-Semitism. In inquisition-era Venice, a Catholic priest saves it from burning. In Barcelona in 1492, the scribe who wrote the text sees his family destroyed by the agonies of enforced exile. And in Seville in 1480, the reason for the Haggadah’s extraordinary illuminations is finally disclosed. Hanna’s investigation unexpectedly plunges her into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics. Her experiences will test her belief in herself and the man she has come to love.

Inspired by a true story, People of the Book is at once a novel of sweeping historical grandeur and intimate emotional intensity, an ambitious, electrifying work by an acclaimed and beloved author.

From the Hardcover edition.

Book Reviews

People of the Book
Average rating
3.5 / 5
People of the Book
February 3rd, 2015
I really enjoyed both the over-story and the under-stories of this book. I learned a lot about book binding and the Jewish faith.
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1 review
People of the Book
September 6th, 2014
This was an interesting fictionalized account of an historical event. Unfortunately the storyline is at times confusing and muddled. I cannot highly recommend it but in a way it tries to symbolize Muslims and Jews long interwoven history.
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1 review
January 27th, 2014
Some twists in the book were to simplified. I did not believe. A little boring also, even though I guess writer gave big effort to do all background work. But not enough for me to recommend it. Sorry.
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1 review
January 24th, 2014
This book was completely enthralling. It is a wonderful historical fiction based off of true events. If you enjoy historical fiction, this is a great book to add to your shelves. The historical aspects of this book are captivating with a great deal of research. There are often complains about the off-putting nature of some characters in the book, but if you want to fall into the story, instead of being attached to the characters, then this is a book for you!
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1 review
Great Book
October 24th, 2013
I love how the story for Hanna goes forward in time while the story of the book goes back in time. Makes the book more interesting and fun to read.
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1 review
October 4th, 2013
As a collector of books and an artist this was an enjoyable and well researched story. A fictionalized account of the history of the Sarajavo Haggadah, from its initial creation, through salvation and discovery. Multiple character arcs intersperse with the main story and make it easy to check back on who's who when you need to. A great read.
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1 review

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