My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book is based on the compelling true story of the survival of the Sarajevo haggadah over the five hundred years of its existence. Many times during that existence, it had been in danger of extermination, even as the people that it served were also in such danger. That it has survived more or less intact may well be thought of as a miracle ore even a series of miracles.
The story here is of a conservator of ancient texts, Hanna Heath, and it follows her efforts to restore the book in the war-torn Sarajevo of 1996 and of her research into the history of the book as she tries to imagine how it could have survived for so long. It is a story that should have grabbed me and held my interest, and yet it left me curiously unmoved. I just couldn't seem to work up much empathy for Hanna and her travails. I think that is probably because the development of the characters seemed secondary to the development of the plot in Brooks' story-telling. And so the characters seemed incomplete - not quite fleshed out.
Still, the plot itself is a remarkable one, handling multiple story lines as it explicates the history of the illuminated haggadah, and it did manage to maintain my interest. I wanted to see how it would end, but, frankly, I did find myself longing for that end and rushing my reading to get there.
Brooks is a talented writer. I would not hesitate to put other works of hers on my "to-be-read" list.
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