The story focuses on Australian book conservator Hannah Heath, who is called to Sarajevo during a cease fire to inspect and stabilize the book. In her inspection she makes note of a number of anomalies in the binding (the missing clasps, a hair stuck in the binding, a stain, a small salt encrustation). The intrigue-laden story of the contemporary history and the book’s status is interwoven with long chapters explaining the book’s history, explaining how these elements came to be present in the book, including the history of its creation in the first place–a miracle of sorts, given it’s very unusual circumstances.
In other words, Brooks is imagining the unknown history behind a real codex and the interplay between the histories is wonderful.
As someone trying to write such a historical novel, where we know a skeleton of facts, but nothing else, I’m so impressed by the research and skill Brooks used in weaving this tale. And to think I never would have read this wonderful novel if not for a completely random Internet quiz.
I was bored one day and browsing aimlessly and a Bustle.com clickbait special called “Which Novel You Should Read Next, Based on Your Favorite Starbucks Order” jumped out at me. How could I resist? It’s probably the only five minutes I’ve spent profitably following such a quiz link, but it sent me to People of the Book, so there we are.
If you like tales about books, historical fiction, true stories retold as fiction, or all of the above, this is a book you should read. Now I have to look into her other works.