Author Topic: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online  (Read 62416 times)

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The Book Club Online is  the oldest  book club on the Internet, begun in 1996, open to everyone.  We offer cordial discussions of one book a month,  24/7 and  enjoy the company of readers from all over the world.  everyone is welcome to join in.

People of the Book - by Geraldine Brooks

      You'll fall in love with Hanna Heath,  Geraldine Brooks'  edgy  Aussie rare book expert with an attitude, a loner with a real passion for her work.  How could she refuse this opportunity of a lifetime, the conservation of the beautifully illustrated Sarajevo  Haggadah, the mysterious Hebrew manuscript, created in Spain in the 14th century?

The invitation will bring Hanna into war-torn Bosnia in the spring of 1996 and then,  into the world of fine art forgers and international fanatics. Her intuitive investigation  of the manuscript will put her in a time capsule to medieval Spain and  then back to Northern Australia again with a number of stops along the way.  This is based on the travels of an actual manuscript, which has surfaced over the centuries since its creation in Spain.
Discussion Schedule:

July 15-19 #1 ~ Hanna, 1996; Insect's Wing;
    Sarajevo, 1940
 
July 20-24 Hanna, Vienna, 1996; Feathers and a Rose;
   Hannah, Vienna, Spring '96
July 25-August 3 Wine Stains, Venice 1609;
   Hanna, Boston, 1996
August 4-August 8  Saltwater, Tarragona, 1492;
   Hanna, London, Spring, 1996  
August 9-August 13 White Hair, Seville, 1480;
   Hanna, Sarajevo, Spring, 1996  
August 14-18 Lola, Jerusalem, 2002;
   Hanna,  Gunumeleng, 2002  
August 19-August 23  Afterword

(click twice to really enlarge)


Topics for Discussion
July 15-19 ~ Hanna, 1996; Insect's Wing;
    Sarajevo, 1940

1. What is your opinion  of Geraldine Brooks' protagonist from these introductory  chapters?  Do you know people like Hanna?  Is she believable? Likeable?

2. Why was Hanna Heath  chosen from a pool of more qualified conservators to prepare the Haggadah for exhibition?
  Do you think she differs from most conservators who consider their job "merely technical?"

3. What are some of the possible reasons Hanna's hands  were shaking as she waited for the book to be brought to her in the bank vault?

4. What facts do we learn about the manuscript's appearance in Sarajevo in 1894?  Does it appear to have been a legal sale to the museum?  

5.  Why does the UN want to put it on display as soon as possible in 1996?  

6. What do you remember about the book's appearance when Hanna first sees it? Will she rebind the book as previous conservators have done?  How does she see her job as a conservator?

7.  Is it remarkable, miraculous even,  that the manuscript is in such good condition considering the conditions in which it was stored and the way it has been handled?

8. Is there reason to suspect that the manuscript was illustrated by a Christian illuminator?  But what is it about the Seder illustration that Hanna finds perplexing?

9. What remarkable discoveries does Hanna make in the manuscript's binding?   Why does she believe that the haggadah has been in the Alps at one time?  Do you think this is all fiction?

10.  What do we learn about the attitudes of the Sarajevo natives during the war from Ozren when he takes Hanna to dinner in the Old Town? Why does he reject the second opinion Hannah offers him to see if anything can be done about his son's head injury

11. What purpose does Lola's story serve?  What did you learn of  ethnic relations in Sarajevo in the 1940's?

12.  Can you tell which characters were were real, which were fictional?  Serif Kamal - the Muslim who saved the Haggadah from the Nazis?  Dr. Josip Boscovic, the museum director, who turned it over to Kamal?  Do you think the name of the person who saved the manuscript in 1992 is known? Do you believe that the 30 year old kustos, Ozren Karaman is a fictitious character?
 


Relevant Links:
Geraldine Brooks - Background information; Sarajevo Haggadah; Early Haggadah Manuscripts; Illuminated Manuscripts; Brief History of Illuminating Manuscripts;

Discussion Leaders: JoanP, Ann , JoanK,  & Traudee

JoanP

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2009, 01:36:18 PM »
The day has finally come!  What a great big enthusiastic, diverse group we have gathered here!  Surely this will be a rich, rewarding and enjoyable discussion!  How can it not be?  Commendable how you have kept quiet about the book during the pre-discussion until now.  If you were not around for the pre-discussion, know that there is much valuable information there concerning the situation in Sarajevo now and in the past. There were also many posts about haggadot.  You might want to use the site as a reference - or you can ask again here.  We now have some very knowledgeable posters on these matters.

The author is travelling abroad - Germany right now, on an international book tour, but will try to respond to questions we will forward to her by email - through her publisher.  We'll keep the questions in a link in the header here and forward them to her each week.  We'll try not to repeat questions that have been answered in interviews elsewhere - will make every effort to keep this list brief.  Will you bold your questions in your posts so we don't miss them?

Finally, you'll find a schedule in the heading at the top of each page.  We ask that you keep an eye on the dates and chapters and try not stray into the next chapters in your comments, as some  of us have not read the book beforehand.  No one wants to be a spoiler, we know that - but it can happen if we're not careful.

Again - a great big warm Welcome to everyone! We're off!!!

JoanK

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2009, 10:03:19 PM »
And WELCOME again. This is an absolutely fascinating book, and we have a great group here: it should be a wonderful discussion. So prepare to go through space and time, through the worlds of books, of medicine, of art, of Jewish history and the histories of at least three nations and four centuries, as well as drama, mystery and romance. What more could we ask for?

Well, maybe something to drink and munch on while we talk. We will start out in Sarajevo, where we are told our heroine, Hannah, drinks beer and eats "cevapcici": a kind of sausage that "can be found on nearly every corner" in Sarajevo (according to Wikopedia)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cevapcici

I hope you haven't eaten. Even if you have, pull up a chair and dig in.


Mippy

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2009, 06:30:39 AM »
Good morning, everyone!
Thanks, JoanK, I'll skip the sausage meat    :D   . . .  and progress to the meat of the book.
                       
Hannah seems to be the perfect choice for exploring the Hagaddah.  She's competent and also young enough to have personal adventures, i.e. romances, as they come about.   She's also young enough to have an active, interesting mother.

So from the point of view of the novelist, she can take part in multiple subplots.
And from my viewpoint as a reader, she's most complex and interesting.   What a book!
quot libros, quam breve tempus

Babi

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #4 on: July 15, 2009, 09:18:14 AM »
Q.1  I found Hanna entirely believable. I like it when people can become so
engrossed in their work that they shut out everything around them. I've
been known to do that myself.

 Q.2 Do most conservators consider their jobs merely technical? Don't they get
excited when a rare and valuable object comes to their hands? I suppose some
could come to the work sinply as technicians, but one would think a love of
antiquity draws most people to the field.

  Of course Hanna drinks beer, JOANK. she's an Aussie, isn't she?

"I go to books and to nature as a bee goes to the flower, for a nectar that I can make into my own honey."  John Burroughs

Frybabe

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2009, 10:42:07 AM »
marking

Gumtree

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2009, 12:02:31 PM »
Quote from Babi:
Quote
Of course Hanna drinks beer, JOANK. she's an Aussie isn't she?

There's one misconception I can clear up right now -  I know there is the perception that all Aussies drink beer from dawn to dark and no doubt there are some elements in the community who would do just that given half a chance but there is no 'of course' about it - I'm an Aussie and I don't drink beer nor do most of my female friends and family members. Not all of the men do either. My personal preference is for wine and on occasion I'm rather partial to a good liqueur, but beer? NO!
 Beer has always been a popular drink with both sexes both here and elsewhere so Hanna's enjoyment of beer is not unusual but her preference for drinking it straight from the can or 'tinny' is somewhat exceptional. In Australia most women would prefer to drink it from a glass unless the occasion or situation precluded that.


Q.2 I rather think that conservators who regard their job as 'merely technical' would be given the more mundane work associated with conservation and certainly would not be chosen to handle priceless artifacts such as this Haggadah.

Why was Hanna chosen from a pool of more qualified conservators?
Hanna was given the job over others more experienced in the field simply because her country isn't perceived as carrying the baggage others do. Australia does not have age-old religious and racial conflicts and lies outside the northern hemisphere's political arena so Hanna is seen as being uninvolved and  inoffensive to all concerned parties.
Reading is an art and the reader an artist. Holbrook Jackson

straudetwo

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #7 on: July 15, 2009, 12:11:47 PM »
We've prepared well for this book;  at last  it's Opening Day, and we are free to let fly !
Lots of good questions to ponder.

The core, the inspiration,  indeed the very heart and soul of this story, is the Haggadah, of course.  But it is immediately clear that Hanna Heath will play a vital, even decisive role.  Her work has been commissioned by the UN, which will pay all expenses. She is going to work under a deadline and, after a first day of meetings and introductions with many cups of Turkish coffee, she is ready and anxious the next day. But there's an unexpected delay in the arrival of the artifact. More coffee, one imagines.  No wonder her hands shake (Q. 3).

At last the sealed box is brought in, the seals, tapes etc. are removed by a thin young man who, it turns out, is the Muslim who had saved the precious Haggadah.  Is is a relatively small book, a family prayer book, as Hanna realizes immediately.  It is kept under lock and key at all times, except when she works on it. And when she does, a room full of guards from the UN and the bank stand watch. She soon forgets they are there.

We also notice that Hanna does not have an exactly loving relationship with her mother.  Unresolved issues  seem to be the reason. It will be interesting to watch this particular thread.
I think Hanna is believable((Q. 1), clearly an expert in her very special field, and well respected.  She is candid, comes straight to the point and, no doubt, does not suffer fools gladly. She can be abrasive, as we see in the first chapter. For now I'm holding back on "likable"  
  ;)

mrssherlock

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #8 on: July 15, 2009, 01:52:41 PM »
Having read this book two times my initial impressions of the setting and the characters are colored.  I did find Hanna likeable from the first and her assignment as conservator of the Haggadah was logical given her professional associations in the field.  Both her nationality and her beer drinking are also logical;  Oz is exempt from much of the baggage which affects Northern hemisphere  politics and religions, and beer drinking is a characteristic of her age group, most colleges are fueled by beer it seems.  What a thrilling ride we are embarked on!
Jackie
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. Edmund Burke

ALF43

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #9 on: July 15, 2009, 03:12:54 PM »
I can't help but feel sorry for Hannah.  She is an emotionally detached 30 year old wreck of a woman giving her love and attention to "the flesh and fabrics of pages."  Inantimate love does not a life make....

Remember the handsome, botanist boyfriend that told her "her attitude to sex was like something he'd read about in a sociology textbook " from the 60's?  He said she was like a prefeminist male, acquiring partners for casual sex and then dumping them as soon as any emotional entanglement was required." 
 
Now how many men do you know that would even GET that? (she should have stuck with him.)

Isn't that sad how closely she resembles her mother whose main focus is her skills in neurosurgery, not the emotional welfare of her daughter.  They are both brilliant women in their own right but have neglected their "inner beings".
The mother is top notch in her field and yet fails drastically as a close confidante.  I feel sorry for both of them, irregardless of how qualified they both might be. 
Hannah has a traveling scholarship!  I cannot begin to imagine what benefits that would bring a brilliant young girl.   
Books are the bees which carry the quickening pollen from one to another mind.  ~James Russell Lowell

Aberlaine

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #10 on: July 15, 2009, 04:50:01 PM »
The story of the death of Ozren's wife and the disabling of his young son is just horrendous.  I can't imagine the thought of the person behind the rifle simply shooting her while she stood in the water line.  Then shot her again while she lay bleeding, the bullet piercing his son's skull.  What kind of person would shoot at an innocent mother and her baby?  Could he/she possibly have thought that this person was the enemy?

I've never seen war, have never known anyone who fought in one, so I'm pretty naive about it.  And just reading about it in history books doesn't make one emotionally entangled with it. 

I was caught up in the Vietnam War because my husband and I were stationed in Germany just before it escalated.  When the Vietnam Wall was erected in Washington, D.C. we went to see if any of his buddies had been lost in the war.

CallieinOK

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #11 on: July 15, 2009, 06:21:40 PM »
Marking my place.

JoanK

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #12 on: July 15, 2009, 07:03:40 PM »
I tried to post this this morning, but couldn't get into the site:
I think beer drinking is supposed to be characteristic of Sarajevo. Remember, the brewery is the one thing that didn't shut down during the fighting.

Beer and sausages sounds too heavy to me, too. What do you all suggest.

Meanwhile, I was fascinated with Hannah's description of how she goes about her craft. Scraping out the isides of cow's insides. Making all the materials that she will be working with. To someone who is not a craft worker, it sounded right. Do you all agree?

I was also intrigued by her descriptiion of how she does her work. This book is both a work of art and an historical artifact. Looking at it as a work of art, she would want to "restore" the stains and imperfections left by time. but that would destroy its history. She chooses to preserve, even celebrate the history, sometimes at the expense of the beauty of the paintings.

Of course, that is the basis of the book. What a fascinating premise, to take each stain or artifact as a clue to the book's journey. But in general, what do you think? Is there a conflict between celebrating it's history and celebrating its beauty?


PatH

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #13 on: July 15, 2009, 07:42:20 PM »
Meanwhile, I was fascinated with Hannah's description of how she goes about her craft. Scraping out the isides of cow's insides. Making all the materials that she will be working with. To someone who is not a craft worker, it sounded right. Do you all agree?

I absolutely agree.  Hannah has essentially undergone a mini-apprenticeship, which means she knows the issues involved in making such a manuscript.  This enables her to understand details that would otherwise be unnoticeable.  It's useful both in ferreting out the history of a document and in detecting fakes, plus, if you have done such a thing yourself, you have a fellow feeling for the creator of a manuscript and can interpret it better.

JoanP

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #14 on: July 15, 2009, 07:43:49 PM »
"You'll fall in love with Hanna Heath,  Geraldine Brooks'  edgy  Aussie rare book expert with an attitude, a loner with a real passion for her work."
                        
Hmmm, perhaps "love" is a strong verb to use describing our Hanna.  After all, why should we love her when no one else seems to. Andy sees her as an "emotionally detached 30 year old wreck of a woman giving her love and attention to "the flesh and fabrics of pages."   Can you believe her mother?  Will she ever learn her father's identity? (I hope not!)  Not that she is complaining, or even seems to notice.  Is this altogether believable?  I'm hoping to see more character development as we get into the story.  Traudee, I agree, she can be abrasive...though I find her somewhat refreshing - I have a few friends like Hanna.

Mippy sums her up - "competent, adventuresome, complex and interesting."  So, we'll use her as our competent guide  - for the time being.  Babi, I envy people who love what they do - totally engrossed.  But we need to see her come up for air at some point, don't we?

Oh good, we hear from Gum, under the leafy trees of Perth, sipping her...lemonade!  hahaha, it's so good that we are getting this straightened out from the git go.  Hanna and Geraldine Brooks are from Sydney - and drink beer - from "tinnies"- - is this our first Australian term?

And she's got this plum job working on the Haggadah simply because Australia doesn't have enemies.  I don't know about her qualifications, Jackie -  she is quite young for this all-expense paid trip to sunny Sarajevo, isn't she?  Hasn't she just turned 30?   JoanK reminds us of her skills scraping the cow's intestines to make - parchment, was it?  She was thorough, PatH, but still, she is so young - and there are probably more seasoned conservators who would love to get their hands on the Haggadah.
I'll bet there is a fair amount of jealousy in world of conservation! Or not?  Maybe no one wants the job?
At least we are confidant in her ability to work on this antique manuscript!  More importantly - so is Hanna!  Why are her hands shaking?

JoanK - you just reminded me of the photo of the brewery Frybabe found - I think it's in the pre-discussion.  Maybe she will bring it here again.  It seemed like the pride and joy of the town - maybe I'm being flippant.
Margie, we're keeping your chair warm for you - Callie's too!

Jackie, you've read the book twice!  You'll probably note things we miss the first time around!  Good to have you with us to color in the lines.

Aberlaine, most of us have never seen suffering like this.  I think that Geraldine Brooks' assignments to war zones as a reporter  - including to Sarajevo, must have made such occurances routine - although I guess you never get accustomed to it.

ChazzW

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #15 on: July 15, 2009, 08:08:11 PM »
I see Alf is still making a lot of sense (but I didn't doubt that).
I can't help but feel sorry for Hannah.  She is an emotionally detached 30 year old wreck of a woman giving her love and attention to "the flesh and fabrics of pages."  Inanimate love does not a life make....

Isn't that sad how closely she resembles her mother..

I wonder if we'll hear more from her mother? Somehow I think not. I just finished the prescribed sections and will adhere to the schedule to see how that works (it's been some while since I read this way.)

I'm guessing that one major theme that GB wishes to focus on is the very real ability of diverse people's to live in harmony. There are/were pockets of harmony in various parts of the Eurasian land mass that existed for many decades and generations.  That was all shattered in the aftermath of WWII. I'm not satisfied that GB is off to a good start making her case, leaning too far in one direction, too soon. But we'll see.

What kind of person would shoot at an innocent mother and her baby?  

Ethnic cleansers.

Two problems for me so far. One minor: I thought GB telegraphed the insect wing a bit heavy handedly. Munib is at work when Stela, Habib, and Lola enter. A short while later...
Quote
As a child entered carrying a tray of tea, one small piece of butterfly wing rose on the slight breeze from the open door and fluttered to rest, unnoticed, on the haggadah’s open page.

This didn't even escape my meager attention to clues and details.

The other a bit more disturbing, right out of Bodice Rippers 101:
Quote
The tips of his fingers glistened with the lamb grease from my cheek. I brought them to my lips and licked them, slowly, one by one. His green eyes regarded me, asking a question anyone could understand.

Yeah. I think we get the answer too!

X-POST w/JOANP

Chazz

winsummm

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #16 on: July 15, 2009, 08:41:06 PM »
so who is the movie star who is selected to play the part of hannah?

as for the mother's choice of father for her, I'm thinking about selecting for brains however she did it.

Hannah speaks of her cowardence. Evidently fear is the only strong emotion she allows herself to feel. Alf has it pegged. old manuscripts don't expect anything from her that she doesn't already know.  Rather than viewing them as simply a technical challenge, she gives them life with her imaginaion as to their history and their origins.
some life.

I can appreciate that having used my own art and music interests to escape the harsh realities of daily doings. It works . . . . sometimes.

claire
thimk

Frybabe

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winsummm

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #18 on: July 15, 2009, 11:35:16 PM »
thank you frybabe

I saved it. what a wonderful old building. I'm glad it survived.
claire
thimk

Aberlaine

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #19 on: July 16, 2009, 07:21:44 AM »
Stuck within the binding of the Haggadah, Hanna finds an insect's wing, a white hair, a stain and an inscription.  She also noticed that the clasps were missing and there were channels in the board edges.

When Hanna brings the piece of the wing to an entomologist she knew, the entomologist identifies the butterfly and tells Hanna that these butterflies are only found in high places, like the Alps.

Is this fiction?  I think so.  I don't think there's any evidence that these items were found in the Haggadah.   

Babi

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #20 on: July 16, 2009, 09:05:26 AM »
 No offense intended, GUMTREE. I confess to a perception, doubtless from
my reading, that beer is a very popular drink in Australia. Beer is also
a very popular drink here in Texas, but I don't drink it either. I drink
diet Dr. Pepper, Sierra Mist, and iced tea when dining out. Exciting, huh?

 I enjoyed the descriptions of how a conservator handles a fragile book,
the care that is taken. I liked Hanna's awe and respect for the book and
her intense care for it.

 ALF, I had the impression that the botanist boyfriend ended that
relationship, for the reasons you quoted. Sticking with him wasn't
her choice, tho' from the nature of his complaint, she probably
would not have in the long run.
  As for the mother, I am detecting a contempt for her daughters choice
of career that is, IMO, totally unjustified.

CHAZZ, I think that bit about the butterfly's wing is well aheaad of
where we are now.
"I go to books and to nature as a bee goes to the flower, for a nectar that I can make into my own honey."  John Burroughs

ALF43

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #21 on: July 16, 2009, 09:10:15 AM »
One of the questions that I asked in the pre-discussion was WHY did they dub her a conservator instead of a restorer?  I thought that restoration sounded so much more meaningful but I guess that I was wrong.  Pg. 17 answers my own question:

"To restore a book to the way it was when it was made is to lack respect for its history.  I think (Hanna) you have to accept a book as you receive it from past generations, and to a certain extent damage and wear reflect that history. "

Is that semantics or what?  It is still a restoration of an article.  Doesn't every article have a history?  Wouldn't one automatically realise the history as they delved into the restoration process?
I was thinking along the line that a conservatorship implies guardianship usually a legal guardianship.
Whatever----  sometimes I get hung up on the craziest of thoughts.
Books are the bees which carry the quickening pollen from one to another mind.  ~James Russell Lowell

ALF43

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #22 on: July 16, 2009, 09:11:30 AM »
You're right Babi, the botanist guy dropped her like a hot potato.  She should have mended her ways then.   ::)
I loved her quick retort to said botanist, didn't you?
"If I wanted a partner, I'd join a law firm."
 
Now you've got to admit that was a good one.  It cracked me up but no-- she wants a relationship that is light and fun.  Join the circus Hannah.
Books are the bees which carry the quickening pollen from one to another mind.  ~James Russell Lowell

winsummm

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #23 on: July 16, 2009, 10:31:18 AM »
I liked the materials part but was left wondering what kind of paint was used since in that period I don't think OIL was common. previousy fresco on walls and tempra . . . eggs . . . .on wood paels. now parchment may have required something oily.  just wondering. this is my field.

I have some rounds of goat skin that I used when making ceramic drums, wetting to stretch and then mounting on pots and tying down. I would have just used my acrylics to paint on them but didn't feel the need to do that since the pots were decorative in themselves. hmmmm??

as for the love story. it wasn't necessary but probably helped to sell the book.  

the islamic peasant women wore long skirts but what did they wear on top???.

dumb little questions I know but on rereading this I notice different things than I did the first time. i.e. the writing style seems to change when in lola's world. it really is from her point of view rather than hannah's... simpler, less description.
thimk

JoanP

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #24 on: July 16, 2009, 11:12:14 AM »
Claire, I bet we could find out something about the kind of paint used at the time - with some research on the actual Haggadah.  Didn't GB mention something about lapis lazuli crushed into the paint for the blue?  I remember thinking the paint had to have some consistancy to support that - and guessed oil. Will you talk a little about eggs and how they are used?
 The cow's stomach - was used for parchment then, not gold leaf?  I got that all mixed up as I read it.

I agree, a love story would help sell the book, the movie too.  But if we're going to have a love story, I want one that is satisfying, don't you?  Oh and no, the actress with the film rights is not Jennifer Anniston. ;)  

JoanP

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #25 on: July 16, 2009, 11:12:46 AM »
Chazz is here this morning - and PatH too!  We are so happy and fortunate to have you join us. Welcome!

Charlie, we need to underline a comment you made - and keep it foremost in our minds.
Quote
"One major theme that GB wishes to focus on is the very real ability of diverse people's to live in harmony."
I'm guessing that the unity was compromised  after WWI when the ethnic cleansing begain in Yugoslavia - and then "shattered" after WWII.  I too hope that GB doesn't overlook the whole picture as some critics have intimated.   It's early in the book, as you say.

Babi - GB has included the episode describing the insect's wing's wing landing in the open haggadah page in "The Insect Wing" 1940 chapters as we see the last of Lola. Aberlaine believes the whole thing is fiction - the butterfly wing, the wine stain, the hair.  I'm okay with that.  But what did you think of the inscription?  Either it's in the Haggadah, or it isn't.  What do you think?

Claire, you seem to understand something about Hanna we haven't talked about.  Her fear.  Will you expand?  I think you are referring to her fear of committment, but not sure.  She's not shy, she doesn't show fear as she licks Ozren's fingers - (thanks for reminding us of that rather bumpy scene, Chazz.)  I do understand what you are saying about how she buries herself in her work to avoid...what? Loneliness?

JoanP

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #26 on: July 16, 2009, 11:25:11 AM »
Andy, you bring up interesting points on conservation of old manuscripts.  Do you see Hanna regarding the hair and the butterfly wing as part of the book's history?  Did you notice whether she left them in the book, or removed them?  Will she put them back?  (Do you regard this as GB's fiction?)

I cringed as she cut the strings that bound the book together and put new ones in.  Were'nt they the work of another conservator - long ago?  Aren't they part of the book?  Did she save them for analysis?  Did you think it was odd that she was replacing them with seemingly little interest in the old ones?

Frybabe - thank you for retrieving the Sarajevo brewery...unscathed after all the bombing and unrest in the city.  I'll bet everyone involved held it in reverence!

mrssherlock

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #27 on: July 16, 2009, 11:41:55 AM »
Cutting the strings weithout remorse, since these were strings apparently proviede by the same person who bound the haggadah in ugle cardboard covers, why bother?  Just as antiques which have not been stripped of the signs of wear are worth more so is the Haggadah.  After all, five hudnred years have passed since its creation.  I can't separate my knowledge of Hannah from those first impressions you all have noted.  The ways we can spoil are sly and sneaky.  Sorry.  I'm trying to get the book back so I can proceed at your pace instead of relying on my feeble memory.
Jackie
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. Edmund Burke

straudetwo

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #28 on: July 16, 2009, 11:52:09 AM »
Alf
Your point  on restore and conserve is well taken.  

But linguists are sticklers and often finicky. Like me.
There is a distinction between those two verbs,  as shown by the prefix re.    In "REstore", as in REturn, REpeat, REcover, REthink etc.  the prefix indicates a turning back to a previous (or the original) condition/position.

Medieval castles along the Rhine have been restored and have become modern hotels; dilapidated farmhouses in Tuscany, Umbria and in Provence were rebuilt into fancy modern residences (seeUnder the Tuscan Sun).

"Conserve" is synonymous  with keep (up), protect, preserve.
Finis.

Hanna Heath is not only preternaturally skilled but she is that rara avis = the unique person who goes beyond skilled mending and seeks to get access to the unknowable history of a manuscript, which GB  does so effectively here.  Imagine the extent of her research!

JoanP,  in re your last Q.
People of the Book  is a work of fiction, we are told. The codex is authentic, mercifully no longer hidden away but accessible to all mankind. However, the characters in the book, including Hanna and her mother, are fictional, I believe.

Note:   "siege" is correct, "seige" is not.  A minus for the last proofreader,  or final editor.
Sorry, I'm posting this in fits and starts. Had workmen here and they're just leaving.


Charlie, how very good to see you here.  Welcome back !!!






marjifay

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #29 on: July 16, 2009, 12:31:52 PM »
The book hasn't "grabbed" me yet, but I'm only thru the first section.
I'd be more interested if this were nonfiction.  Can't say I'm particulary interested in the detailed fictional history of an old book.

As for Hanna, she's fairly interesting.  I don't think she's particularly likeable, but at least she has a wry sense of humor.  She seems older than thirty.

One of the first questions I had was why didn't she wear plastic gloves when doing her work, since she mentions how weathered and old her hands look.

Another question I had was why the U.N. would give a rat's about an old Jewish book.

I am wondering why the author had her get involved sexually with the museum director right off the bat.  Is this supposed to make the book more interesting?

Marj

"Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill."  Barbara Tuchman

Gumtree

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #30 on: July 16, 2009, 12:40:19 PM »
Someone queried whether the inscription from the censor from Rome was real or fictional - it's real...

The Bosnia and Herzegovina Commission to Preserve National Monuments has a rather long document relating to the  Haggadah which includes this extract:

Quote
It (Sarajevo Haggadah) was in Italy in 1609, as evidenced by a manuscript note by a censor from Rome: "Revisto per mi Gio.Domenico vostorini 1609" on page 105 (Sarajevo Haggadah, 1999, page 105).

The document is long and could contain spoilers for our story -

http://www.aneks8komisija.com.ba/main.php?id_struct...
Reading is an art and the reader an artist. Holbrook Jackson

Gumtree

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #31 on: July 16, 2009, 01:05:40 PM »
I read somewhere that due to the influence of a high ranking UN official Geraldine Brooks was able to watch the real life conservator at work for two full days. GB appears  to have adhered to fact as much as possible in regard to the work done by the conservator who according to this news item was  Andrea Pataki

Quote
A team of international experts, led by Andrea Pataki, a restorer of the Austrian Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna carried out the restoration.

Pataki, who has worked with rare manuscripts in Israel and the United States told the Sarajevo newspaper The Balkan Times that she mainly had to repair or stabilize the 19th century binding and the end papers.

"I checked under a 25X microscope and I didn't see any flaking or powdering of the pigments," Pataki told the Balkan times. "The overall condition is very good for its age."

Pataki said she also did not want to do anything to remove the wine stains and other signs that bear witness to the Haggadah's use at the seder table.

"That's something you never touch - it's part of the book's history," she said.


http://www.ujc.org/page.html?ArticleID=26866

Winsumm: The fact that the actual restorer found there was no flaking or powdering of the paint suggests the artist used either an oil (a bit early perhaps) or the egg tempera which is very long lasting.


Traude: Interesting that the real life conservator is actually a restorer ?  ???




Reading is an art and the reader an artist. Holbrook Jackson

winsummm

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #32 on: July 16, 2009, 02:21:35 PM »
about the medium used for painting. I think it must have been egg tempura this is how we did it.

I forget how we did the gesso although do remember rabbit glue and much rubbing in between layers for a smooth finish

about the egg. we used the yolk which is oily itself. the egg in my left palm, my right hand delicately picks up the yolk by its membrane holds it over the pallet and pricks it letting the insides drain.

the pigment has been ground first in a little water and is now ready to use with the egg yolk.

we did it in transparent layers which helped the light to come through the molecules and made for brilliance.  the end result was satiny and smooth.

claire
thimk

winsummm

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #33 on: July 16, 2009, 02:35:10 PM »
hannah is afraid of airplanes, pulls the shade down to avoid seeing how high they are.

she is direct about her appitites as in eating and sex where she has some control, but speaks frequently about her nervousness in facing the task and the people connected with it.  She forgets her fear as she works with her materials and does her job.

so her job may be working for her in other areas too, where ever she lacks control and feels inadequate.  as in dealing with her mother.

claire
thimk

JoanK

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #34 on: July 16, 2009, 03:02:28 PM »
GB in an afterword tells us that all the people in the story are fictional, and especially that the real restorer/conservator is nothing like Hannah.

I think you all are too hard on the character of Hannah. It is plausible that, given that her only childhood relationship was her cold one with her mother, that every attempt for love or understanding from her was rebuffed, that she would be terrified of any emotional commitment. The unrealistic thing to me is that she would open up to Ozren so early and so completely. A little awkward plotting here, but let's not condemn Hannah for it. In Hannah's defense, maybe she recognizes Ozren as a kindred spirit.

winsummm

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #35 on: July 16, 2009, 03:37:18 PM »
I just remembered something additional:

separate the egg and discard the white
move the yolk in its membrane back and forth between palms to dry it
then it is easy to pick it up by its membrane and poke with a sharp instrument.

got it.  it has been a while.

claire
thimk

EvelynMC

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #36 on: July 16, 2009, 03:38:38 PM »
I find Hannah believable, but she is so prickly that I don't think it would be easy to like her.

Thank you, straudetwo for the explanation between restoring and conserving.  

winsumm Thanks for that explanation of egg yolk used as a medium for painting.

I also don't understand why the author had Hannah jump in bed with Ozren just about as soon as she met him.  I feel this is unrealistic of a smart, brainy, well educated woman who has traveled so extensively. She lives a solitary life and should  be used to being alone in a strange city.

Also, I can't resist...about the beer, I LOVE an occasional Shiner's Bock. A regional beer from Texas.  ;)

All of your posts are very thoughtful and I am re-reading the pages with new eyes.

Evelyn

straudetwo

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #37 on: July 16, 2009, 04:12:05 PM »
JoanK    I agree that we should not be too harsh on Hanna.

It was I who said in my # 7

"We also notice that Hanna does not have an exactly loving relationship with her mother. Unresolved issues seem to be the reason. It will be interesting to watch this particular thread" .
But that was I said.

We just began yesterday. More is bound to come up in the relationship between mother and daughter -- it's inevitable. In fact, it has already started:  

By forging her mother's signature on an obliquely worded request,  presumably for a second opinion,  the headstrong Hanna manages to extract information about Ozren's son from the hospital, behind Ozren's back, and takes it with her to London - where she and her mother might meet (!!!)

I too agree that the scene in the restaurant is too much to soon, and the plotting a bit awkward, as JoanK suggested in her # 34.


winsummm

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #38 on: July 16, 2009, 05:49:22 PM »
hannah is in the first person and lola in the third. This is probably the structure throughout, as if hannah is telling us lola's story and also all the others as suggested by the items she has found in the manuscript.   it is an interesting way to cover a lot of territory.
thimk

ChazzW

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Re: People of the Book ~ Geraldine Brooks ~ July 15 ~ Book Club Online
« Reply #39 on: July 16, 2009, 06:14:08 PM »


CHAZZ, I think that bit about the butterfly's wing is well aheaad of
where we are now.

Actually, it's the very last page of the first section(s) on the schedule.
Chazz