Sunday, March 16, 2008

Two Books by Geraldine Brooks

I just finished reading two books by Geraldine Brooks and highly recommend them. Both books are fiction inspired by true historical events. In both cases, Brooks manages to vividly recreate the periods in which the plot is taking place and bring them back to life. The research that goes into her books is really impressive.

The first book is Year of Wonders. It is based on the story of the little village of Eyam in Derbyshire, England in 1666. That was the year plague swept through the village devastating it. The story tells of how the plague entered the village and its effects on its inhabitants through the story of Anna Frith, a housemade at the village's rectory.

The second book, People of the Book, was published just this year. It is based on the story of the Haggadah of Sarajevo. The Haggadah is the story of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, and is read on the eve of Passover (with a lot of food and a minimum of 4 glasses of wine weaved in). The history of this Haggadah goes back to 15th century Spain and has an amazing story of survival through Venice, Vienna and Sarajevo (at least). One of the most interesting aspects of its story is that the acts (often of heroism) to save the Haggadah were typically carried out by non-Jews -- Muslims or Christians, who appreciated the value of the book. The book portrays vividly several periods in history some of which had Christians, Muslims and Jews were living in peace together (Spain, before the inquisition). It's really a great read (regardless of one's religion). And yes, there was even a Halevy involved in this book's history!