People of the Book (novel)

This article is about the novel by Geraldine Brooks. For the article about the theological concept in Islam, see People of the Book.
People of the Book

First edition cover
Author Geraldine Brooks
Country United States
Language English
Genre Historical fiction
Publisher Viking Penguin
Publication date
January 1, 2008
Media type Print (hardcover)
Pages 372 pages
ISBN 978-0-670-01821-5
OCLC 123912702

People of the Book is a 2008 historical fiction novel by Geraldine Brooks. The story focuses on imagined events surrounding protagonist and real historical past of the still extant Sarajevo Haggadah, one of the oldest surviving Jewish illuminated texts.[1]

Plot summary

The novel tells the fictional story of Hanna Heath, an Australian book conservator who is responsible for restoring the Haggadah. The story alternates between sections set in the present day with Heath and other sections showing the history of the Haggadah.[2]

Told in reverse chronological order, the story follows the Haggadah backward in time as it travels across Europe, from war-torn Sarajevo to the book's origins. It also explains such clues as missing silver clasps, preserved butterfly remnants, and various stains and spots, which are all eventually explained as part of the manuscript's long history.

Factual background

The book's Afterword briefly explains which parts of the novel are based on fact and which are imaginary. Geraldine Brooks wrote an article for The New Yorker that provides more details about the Sarajevo Haggadah and its real-life rescuers, especially Dervis Korkut, who hid it from the Nazis. It also explains that Lola, the young Jewish guerrilla fighter in the novel, is based on a real person named Mira Papo, who was sheltered by Dervis Korkut and his wife Servet.[3]

Critical reception

The novel has been compared with Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, with USA Today calling it an erudite version of Brown's work, while other reviewers have noted that it is slower paced, that there are no cliffhangers, and that readers "are never convinced . . . (by its) contrived and cliched personal story."[1][4][5]



  1. 1 2 Susan Kelly (January 9, 2008). "'People of the Book': An erudite 'Da Vinci Code'". USA Today. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
  2. Lisa Fugard (January 20, 2008). "All the World's a Page". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
  3. "The Book of Exodus" (PDF). The New Yorker. December 3, 2007. Retrieved March 9, 2011. This article also provides the image from the Sarajevo Haggadah that shows a woman with African features seated at the seder table.
  4. Janet Maslin (January 7, 2008). "A Literal Page Turner of a Mystery". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
  5. Jessica Marsden (January 18, 2008). "'People of the Book' still no 'Da Vinci Code'". Yale Daily News. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
  6. "Brooks wins Book of the Year award". The Sydney Morning Herald. June 16, 2008. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
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