This book was a complete surprise to me. I had read and heard it was terrific, but I honestly didn’t think it would be for me. The plot revolves around the true story of the lost Sarajavo Haggadah (that’s a 15th century Passover prayer book) and a 20th century conservationist’s (Hanna) attempts to learn more about the book’s creation and past life. Hanna finds clues to the book’s past from objects in its ancient binding and stains on the pages. The book alternates between Hanna’s detective and restorative work and the imagined voices of those who handled and ultimately created the book. There’s more to it than this because the independent (and fictional) historical stories have fantastic settings and rich imagery. Brooks is excellent as usual at taking her readers on historical and geographic journeys. I have never had ANY interest in hearing much about Sarajevo and now I’m anxious to learn more.
I am absolutely recommending this book! I do, however, want to note that those of you who do not have much (or any) knowledge of Judiasm will find your reading experience is much richer if you learn something about Passover (what is a haggadah?) and some of the history of european anti-semitism from the 1400’s on (expulsions of Jews from Spain etc.). The same could be said about gleaning some understanding of the relationship among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This book doesn’t demand you know much, but you’ll enjoy it far more if you have a bit of background or a resource to consult while reading. It’s a gem!