Wednesday, June 22, 2011
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
One of the most dramatic of these stories, about a Venetian censor and the gambling rabbi who hopes to save the book from destruction, centers around wine stains. The book survives in this instance because the Christian censor has a secret, and there are many similar situations and almost melodramatic escapes for the Haggadah in the novel. This interweaving of the faiths and the fate of the book bring the book's theme to light -- that people who love art and literature and faith are all connected in some ways, and without those connections, there could be no art or literature or faith. This book aims to tell a story more than to teach a lesson, but the novel demonstrates the power of faiths that interplay in the way the story unfolds. The cosmopolitan ideal of interfaith dialogue is symbolized by Sarajevo, as well as the failure of interfaith dialogue, because of the Christian-Muslim conflict that virtually destroyed the city in the 1990s. At the end of the novel, Sarajevo has begun to recover from the ravages of war, but there is an unexpected twist that threatens the Haggadah's safety once again. Brooks weaves a compelling story of survival in the novel, and while in some senses the story she weaves is a little too dramatic, that drama is necessary to capture how unlikely the Haggadah's survival really is, and for that matter, how unlikely its creation was. In addition, the human stories behind that survival are told well, and the people of the book really do come to life through this dramatization of their story.