Summary: 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-siele 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. -- Penguin
Last night, the Preschool Moms Book Club met to discuss PEOPLE OF THE BOOK by Geraldine Brooks. We only had four of our nine members, but it was still a fun evening. The hostess made a ton of yummy looking food, and I'm proud of myself that I didn't even have a bite because I'm still participating in the Game On Diet. In keeping with the idea of the Jewish history in the book, she even made a little dessert with chocolate and matzo.
I had actually read PEOPLE OF THE BOOK awhile back and didn't have time to re-read it, so I felt like I wasn't able to contribute a whole lot to the conversation. I have to admit that we didn't spend a whole of time even talking about this book last night. We all liked the writing and the story, but we weren't sure it was the best book for a discussion. We ended up talking about a variety of things like the Game On Diet, the upcoming 3 Day Breast Cancer Walk and our kids!
There is a discussion guide available in the back of the book and on the book's website that aided a little in our conversation. I recommend reading PEOPLE OF THE BOOK, but I'm just not sure that I can wholeheartedly recommend it for a book club pick. It might have been our overall mood, but I just didn't think it provoked a lot of in-depth analysis.
For July, we will be reading STAND THE STORM by Breena Clarke. Valerie from Hachette graciously provided all of us copies of the book, and we are actually working with her to set up having Ms. Clarke call into our meeting to talk about her book. We all agreed that this book sounded really good, and I think it's safe to say that we're all pretty excited to read it.
Summary: Even though former slaves Annie Coats and her son Gabriel have managed to buy their freedom, their lives are still marked by constant struggle and sacrifice--to the extent that Annie secretly recalls her days on the plantation with fondness. Washington's Georgetown neighborhood, where the Coatses are seeking to build their new lives--with Gabriel, a tailor, producing uniforms for soldiers and fine suits for pompous politicians, and Annie, a seamstress and laundress, catering to the nearby brothels and stately homes--is supposed to be a safe haven, a "promised land" for former slaves, but is effectively a frontier town, gritty and dangerous, with no laws protecting black people. In fact, the city's own emancipation efforts in 1862 serve only to compromise the Coats family's status, putting Gabriel's three young daughters (each of them born free of free parents) at risk of becoming the property of the Coatses' former master. The remarkable emotional energy with which the Coatses rise their daily battles--as they negotiate with their former owner, as they assist other former slaves en route to freedom, as they prepare for the encroaching war, and as they struggle to love each other enough--is what fuels this novel and makes its tragic denoument so devastating. -- Back Bay Books