rating: 5 of 5 stars
What an amazing read. Geraldine Brooks stunned me.
I love historical fiction that teaches me about history inside of a great story, but this book exceeds expectations all around.
The book is about a five hundred year old book, and the history of the people whose lives intersected with the book. The present day protagonist is Hanna, an Australian rare book expert sent to Sarajevo to work on Sarajevo Haggadah which was saved from Serbian shelling by a Muslim librarian.
As Hanna investigates the book, the story jumps further and further into the past, where we see the book menaced in other times and places. Sarajevo in World War II, Vienna in the time of the Empire, Venice in the waning years of the inquisition, Spain during the expulsion of the Jews, and finally in Muslim Spain.
Hanna has her own journey, which is often painful. Her story has the most complete arc. The historical episodes have well drawn characters, but they come and go. Hanna's discoveries about the book lead into each of these vignettes. Since we are going backwards in time, we get background information about people and events that we've already read about. And Hanna's story is told chronologically, so we have two time streams, going in opposite directions.
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