My Grammie is a fantastic book giver. Every birthday, Christmas and sometimes just because she gives a book that is either totally related to something you’re actively interested in at the time or, in this case, a phenomenal read. I love it when she gives the latter, because it is often something I wouldn’t have picked off the shelf myself, but almost always can’t imagine having missed the opportunity to read it.
This year, I opened up People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. I’m only about a chapter or two, but so far as I can tell it’s an artful work of historical fiction. The work follows the life of the Sarajevo Haggadah backwards, in to time, in all its former ownerships and near-tragedies. The Sarajevo Haggadah is the oldest existing Haggadah… before starting this book I had no idea what a ‘Haggadah’ was but I do have a particular fondness for very old, illuminated texts no matter what they are. Because the main character in People of the Book is an obsessive-compulsive perfectionist book restorer the novel gets in to the nitty-gritty, finding hairs and insect wings in the binding of the book, tracing origins to enlighten the reader even more about the volume’s history.
Fortuitously, I’m one of those people that find the History or Discovery channels on the television and can leave it there for hours, just soaking up all the imagery. Granted, most of the programs on those channels leave you wanting in the content department, but Brooks certainly will make up for that.
Brooks is the author of some other historical fictions, including March which is a closer look at the story of the father from Little Women, both of which I hear are wonderful books. There are some huge gaps in my literary education, and L.W. is one of them… so I’m sure it’s great. The book on her list that got me salivating, though, is Year of Wonders, which was recently featured on a particularly boring episode of the Diane Rehm Show that we had to turn off on our way to Vermont last week. Don’t worry, though, it’s just the show that was boring and not what seems like an great historical fiction about a town in England that was quarantined in the 1600s due to a plague outbreak. Awesome! Also horrible, but historical accounts of extreme situations, the plague being kind of the king of extreme situations, are really interesting to me. So if everything works out with People of the Book I’ll start with Year of Wonders next.
Mmm, winter reading. I’ll get my peppermint tea, fleece-y blanket and hot water bottle ready for some serious book bliss!