Last week I found myself at the bookstore, in spite of my resolution to read more library books in 2008. I was just killing time while waiting for someone, not planning to buy anything. But then I saw this book. The cover is very beautiful, a metalic gold and lapiz lazuli butterfly wing on a black background. The title is catchy--it's the phrase that the Qur'an uses to refer to people who are neither Muslims nor apostates; i.e., practicing Jews and faithful Christians. The subject matter includes many of my favorite topics: books, history, the interactions among different cultures. The author just won the Pulitzer Prize for her previous book.
All right, all right, I surrender. But I grabbed the book, took it to the checkout, bought it and fled the store, before I could come across any other irresistible finds.
Without going into a lot of detail, I will just say that the book lived up to expectations. The best thing I can say about it is that it went a long way towards healing the wounds inflicted on my soul by my reading of The Da Vinci Code. It's a kind of antidote for that terrible book--rational where Da Vinci is hysterical, historical where Da Vinci is fanciful, factual where DaVinci is, frankly, full of baloney.
People of the Book has some of the same tone and techniques as Dan Brown's opus, I have to admit: mystery and speculation, sex and violence, feminism and glimpses of cultures sure to seem barbaric to modern readers. But it's all pretty tastefully executed, exquisitely researched and detailed.
. . .
I read to the end, as is my custom. The Afterword supplies all the actual facts that the imaginative novel was based on or inspired by. I had to read the dust jacket to find out that Geraldine Brooks is married to Tony Horwitz, who is the author of one of my most-often recommended books, Blue Latitudes. That's just literary trivia, I guess, no real significance but fun to know.