Sunday, January 25, 2009

People of the Book

I don't know what's gotten into me lately with all the reviews, but I finished Geraldine Brooks' People of the Book last night, and I can't keep silent: I can't think of a book that would more universally appeal to people. It is a powerful and enjoyable experience to read, and it was with reluctance that I turned the last page (if only it were longer!); I think that the decades will prove it to be a classic.

It spans centuries, tracing a detailed thread through diverse characters and cultures and weaving throughout the long, sad histories of the persecuted: Jews, Muslims, women. Most of her characters are female, yet despite dealing with some topics typically considered fodder for 'chick lit', the author respects her characters enough not to define them solely by their female-ness. Instead, they are well-formed characters whose gender is just as intrinsic as any of their other qualities, the subjects of fine literature dealing with women's issues among myriad other issues. As a man, I never felt alienated.

Yet despite its epic scope, it weighs in at less than 400 pages. I can't decide if I'm frustrated that the book is so short and want more or if part of its guile lies in how compactly it delivers such a sweeping story.

Read it. I promise you won't be disappointed.

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