The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Does the Dog Die? A Brief Review of People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks

I was so happy and excited when this book came out in paperback! I couldn’t wait to get to the bookstore and buy it. Brooks’ Year of Wonders, which I reviewed a few months ago, is one of the best books I’ve ever read, and People of the Book had received great reviews.

You know where this is going, don’t you? Disappointed reviewer finds herself skimming sections, keeps waiting for the magic to appear, ends up deciding to give book a mediocre review? Yeah, that’s what happened.

Somewhere along the line, said reviewer has to tell what the book is actually about before trashing it. Okay, then: Hanna, a book conservationist from Australia, gets called in to work with a rare Jewish text called a “haggadah” that’s been found in Bosnia after surviving hundreds of years in the hands of different people. Hanna’s mother is surrealistically awful, but Hanna herself is a nice, normal person. As Hanna researches the debris and stains she finds in the book, we are given the stories of the people responsible for all this detritus. And there’s a plot twist involving Hanna, and another involving Momzilla, and then it ends.

As you might have gathered, I don’t like one-dimensional villains. (The attempt at giving the momster a second dimension didn’t work.) I also thought the short stories of the people who’d had the book previously didn’t always work. Sometimes I wanted more and was left hanging, sometimes I was appalled at the violence and had to skim. Yes, if you’re going to write accurately about the Spanish Inquisition, you need some ugliness, but I don’t want to read about it in gory detail. And it wasn’t just that section. Furthermore, Brooks’ research was showing a lot when she wrote about the book conservation; it just didn’t blend in well. Then there’s Hanna herself, who seems both too normal for having had the terrible mother, and too flat to be the protagonist. Bottom line: this book just didn’t work for me, and I’m not recommending it.

As for animals, there were Persian cats that came to no harm, a dutiful donkey that served some rebels in WWII, and a few odds and ends. So the book is SAFE from an animal lover’s perspective, although the violence will likely be off-putting to those for whom that matters. Read Year of Wonders instead.


February 25, 2009 - Posted by | animals, Book Reviews, history |

1 Comment »

  1. I absolutely agree with you regarding the disappointing Hanna. It read like chick-lit to me and certainly in no way like the same author who wrote Year of Wonders. I did like the alternating chapters (everything not Hanna) though.

    Comment by gustines | November 1, 2009 | Reply

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