A few months ago I read March by Geraldine Brooks, which tells the story of Mr. March, the largely absent father from Little Women. I thought it was interesting, but I was disappointed by the ending – it was a bit of a sucker punch. Lately I’ve been hearing good things about her latest, People of the Book, so I thought I’d give it a chance. I’m glad I did – I really enjoyed it.

The main character, Hanna Heath, is a rare book conservator who is called in to examine an unusual illuminated manuscript with religious and political significance. As she examines the book, she finds several tiny artifacts and deposits (a wine stain, an insect wing, etc.) that offer clues to its history. The story alternates between Hanna’s experiences as she investigates these clues, and the stories of how the book came to acquire the mysterious items. While Hanna’s research only gives her an inkling of how and where the book may have traveled, the reader gets to meet the various people involved and gets a richly detailed understanding of the history of the manuscript and the people involved in creating, preserving and passing it along. A very enjoyable read.