Q&A with Geraldine Brooks, author of People of the Book

August 2009

SeniorLearn Books: You would probably be amazed at the amount of information an online book club comes up with. The participants in our discussion of People of the Book, come from all over the world. One from Perth has brought pictures of the rock art from the Northern Territory - Kakadu National Park, and Rover Thomas' wonderfully symbolic "Roads Crossing." One participant from Israel brought us information and examples of Hebrew lettering and script. She also provided an illustration of the Alba illuminated Bible with an explanation of how this Hebrew bible, with the illuminations by Christian artists, came to be.

GB: I was interested to read about your forum and happy to answer questions. See notes in CAPS below.

  1. Yesterday a participant brought us the story of Mira Papo from the recent New Yorker magazine. Surely she is Lola? NOT EXACTLY. BUT THE INSPIRATION FOR HER. Have you seen this issue? I WROTE THAT ARTICLE. THE TRUE STORY WAS SO POWERFUL I HAD TO TELL IT.

  2. Someone posted about the life of Dona Gracia Nasi, who was clearly the real-life Dona de Serena. YES, SHE WAS THE INSPIRATION

  3. I notice that several of the sources we consulted place the origin of the Haggadah around 1350, more that a century before you do. Is this a matter of scholarly debate? YES. THE HOPE IS THAT NOW SARAJEVO HAS RETURNED TO STABILITY AND THE BOOK IS BEING PROPERLY CURATED THERE WILL BE TIME FOR FULLER STUDY TO RESOLVE SUCH ISSUES.

  4. Was the emir in the White hair section based on an historical figure: either the Christian Ferdinand, or an actual emir? NO, NOT REALLY. HE WAS KIND OF A MASH UP OF SEVERAL EMIRS.

  5. Is the round earth part of the impetus for making the artist Muslim? NOT SO MUCH. IT'S JUST THAT SCHOLARS DON'T THINK THE ARTIST WAS JEWISH...SO...GIVEN THAT IT'S CONVIVENCIA, WHY NOT MUSLIM?

  6. In discussing La Convivencia and the cycle of tolerance to intolerance, the question arose as to why the intolerance keeps returning. Any ideas? A DEFECTIVE GENE IN HOMO SAPIENS? I DON'T KNOW HOW ELSE TO ACCOUNT FOR IT.

  7. Did you intend for us to notice the Kohen family who sold the Haggadah to the Museum in Sarajevo and Fr. Vistorini's memory of his surname, Cohain are the same? Can you address the implication here? YES. IT'S UP TO THE READER, BUT THE SUGGESTION IS THAT POSSIBLY AT SOME POINT VISTORINI RETRIEVES HIS HERITAGE AND PASSES THE BOOK ON TO HIS HEIRS. BUT ONLY IF THE READER LIKES THAT IDEA.

  8. A note from one of our music loving nitpickers, who has his own radio show - Mahler's "latest" work, published in 1894 did not receive its first performance until the following year in Berlin. His second came out in 1889 in Budapest which I suppose, would make it his 'latest'. HA! THANKS FOR THAT...LOVING THE LEVEL OF DETAIL...

  9. From a reader in MA, Boston's Dana Faber is Dana-Farber. YES THAT'S BEEN CORRECTED.

  10. We understand that Catherine Zeta-Jones owns the movie rights to People of the Book. Does this mean she might play Hanna Heath? YES, SHE INTENDS TO. What do you think of that? SHE'S A BIT MORE OF A BOMBSHELL, FRANKLY, THAN I IMAGINED, BUT HEY, I'LL TAKE IT.

  11. Has a date been set to make the book into a movie? NOT YET. NOT EVEN A SCRIPT YET.

  12. Who was the Australian painter who was the model for Sharansky's work? NO PARTICULAR ARTIST. IT'S THE PAINTING I WOULD PAINT, IF I COULD PAINT.

    SeniorLearn Books: You must know by now that we have loved your book, and will treasure this discussion which has unearthed so much. We plan to discuss March in the near future, and look forward to hearing about your next novel.