Welcome to the QUIET Book Club Meeting!

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Hi everyone, we’re discussing People of the Book tonight!

I’m going to kick off with a simple question:

Did you like the book? Why or why not?

Please answer in the Comments section below, and then we’ll take it from there — feel free to add your own questions, observations, and so on.

Looking forward to a great discussion!

 

P.S. The discussion officially ended at 9:30 p.m. EST on Wednesday evening, but this post and comment stream will be open indefinitely if anyone wants to continue.


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179 Comments »

179 Comments

  1. Valerie on 28.09.2011 at 19:02 (Reply)

    I liked it! I like historical fiction and this is a fascinating journey of a book through many years.

    1. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 19:05 (Reply)

      Me too. Was talking about this with Christy the other day — it is my favorite way of learning history. i was amazed that Geraldine Brooks knew so much about so many different periods. This was like six historical novels in one.

      1. Valerie on 28.09.2011 at 19:10 (Reply)

        Her Year of Wonders Is my favorite!

      2. Jenni on 28.09.2011 at 19:10 (Reply)

        Yes, I agree. I thought it was well written, and I loved how connected it was, even though the stories were different. It also made me very interested in learning more about what was going on during each time period, especially the Inquisition.

        1. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 19:14 (Reply)

          Yes, it so brought the Inquisition to life! I keep thinking of the character of Torquemada striding through the palace playing his deadly political games. I’d heard his name many time before, but now he’s lodged in my head in a whole new way.

  2. Laura on 28.09.2011 at 19:06 (Reply)

    I liked the book. It had tons of great scenes and moments, lots of fascinating info. I really cared about some of the characters, but overall, I did feel at a remove from the book. Probably because of the almost snapshot nature of its structure. Even though the Haggadah book is the “through” character, I’m not sure that was enough for me to overall love PEOPLE OF THE BOOK.

    1. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 19:10 (Reply)

      You know what, I know what you mean, even though I did love it. The historical stories were so sparkling and each one so well told, I was just amazed by her crafting. But since the only human through character was Hanna, and she’s a bit prickly, that made the book a little harder to hold on to.

      1. Valerie on 28.09.2011 at 19:13 (Reply)

        I liked the story of the Kamels the best and was relieved to find out what happened to that part of the story.

        1. Ruth Neese on 28.09.2011 at 19:52 (Reply)

          So was I, although it was saddening to learn what had happened to Serif.

    2. Marina on 28.09.2011 at 19:12 (Reply)

      I agree, I liked the book but didn’t love it. I felt somewhat removed emotionally from full engagement with the characters. Maybe it’s because it was essentially various short stories, although connected with each other. I probably would have loved it if the book weaved between just one story from the past, as well as the more current Hanna storyline.

      1. Laura on 28.09.2011 at 19:15 (Reply)

        The one story from the past I would have picked to flesh out more, I think, was the African artist Al-Mora’s. I wanted to know what became of her.

        1. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 19:17 (Reply)

          Me too — and especially since she turned out to be the artist behind the whole Haggadah.

          1. Kimberly on 28.09.2011 at 19:23 (Reply)

            her story reminded me of Benazir Bhutto and how her father raised his daughters. Bhutto’s book is beautiful - making having lost such a gift even more tragic.

        2. Ruth Neese on 28.09.2011 at 19:22 (Reply)

          I also would have liked more about al-Morah.

  3. Kimberly on 28.09.2011 at 19:07 (Reply)

    Really enjoyed the book and I am addicted to historical fiction (personal fave historical fiction writer: Philipa Gregory)

  4. Valerie on 28.09.2011 at 19:07 (Reply)

    The story of Hanna interpersed through the other stories was well done. Quite interesting too.

    1. Laura on 28.09.2011 at 19:12 (Reply)

      Yes, Hannah was a good “through” character, too. I wondered, though, how a relationship could work between her and the Bosnian. She seemed so caught up in her aboriginal work in Australia.

  5. Kimberly on 28.09.2011 at 19:09 (Reply)

    there were parts in it that I didn’t understand the need for - example: the mother and that entire relationship. don’t see how it contributed much to the Haaggadah.

    1. Valerie on 28.09.2011 at 19:14 (Reply)

      I thought her relationship with her Mother helped explain her prickliness.

      1. Kimberly on 28.09.2011 at 19:42 (Reply)

        true … good point

  6. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 19:12 (Reply)

    Yes I wondered about that too! Also I wondered how realistic the character of the mother was — she was so beyond redemption.

    1. Kimberly on 28.09.2011 at 19:14 (Reply)

      agreed. she almost seemed unhealthy. she isolated herself from her inlaws for no obvious reason and then her own daughter.

    2. Ruth Neese on 28.09.2011 at 19:15 (Reply)

      Ah, if you have ever known a neurosurgeon, especially a female neurosurgeon, the depiction of Hanna’s mother was spot-on!

      1. Kimberly on 28.09.2011 at 19:16 (Reply)

        good to know …

      2. Laura on 28.09.2011 at 19:17 (Reply)

        A friend of mine is married to a neurosurgeon. Now I feel sorry for her (-:

        1. Ruth Neese on 28.09.2011 at 19:20 (Reply)

          Neurosurgery is a 7-8 year residency after medical school, and surgical residencies in general are very unkind (shall we say) to women. There is extreme pressure to deny every pull on your life outside the surgical speciality and there is a serious “old boys” club in operation at the same time. At the time Hanna’s mother would have been pregnant, getting married to an artist would have meant the death of her career.

          1. Kimberly on 28.09.2011 at 19:24 (Reply)

            a girlfriend of mine “lives” in this world. she says the book “the house of god” is her life described …

            1. Ruth Neese on 28.09.2011 at 19:26 (Reply) (Comments won't nest below this level)

              OMG!! Have you ever read “The House of God?” It was written by a psychiatrist who was in residency during the 1970s. I doubt all of the scenarios still apply, but Dr. Freud’s Anal Mirror and many of the Fat Man’s quips are classics in health care.

            2. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 19:28 (Reply)

              Sounds interesting…are you in health care, Ruth?

            3. Ruth Neese on 28.09.2011 at 19:35 (Reply)

              Yes, I am an Emergency Department nurse who has read “The House of God” several times.

            4. Kimberly on 28.09.2011 at 19:39 (Reply)

              yes i read it. and i have never been able to forget the Fat Man’s words since … :)

            5. Paul Leclerc on 28.09.2011 at 19:46 (Reply) (Comments won't nest below this level)

              Oh oh! Another book added to my Amazon wishlist! House of God @ http://www.amazon.com/House-God-Samuel-Shem/dp/0425238091/ref=tmm_pap_title_0/181-5921223-7712813

            6. Kimberly on 28.09.2011 at 19:58 (Reply)

              Enjoy! Remember … it was the 70s. you’ll have to forgive a few things …

            7. Paul Leclerc on 28.09.2011 at 20:13 (Reply)

              I was able to “overlook” the oral sex with Ruti in the 1400’s so I think I can put the 70’s into perspective 😉

    3. Paul Leclerc on 28.09.2011 at 19:21 (Reply)

      Some people place themselves beyond redemption by choice. Their arrogance doesn’t permit them to believe they are less than perfect and therefore don’t need redemption.
      Hannah’s mother was arrogance personified and their relationship seemed realistic to me. I’m glad that it ended the way it did because it wasn’t a nice happy ending for that part of the story.

      1. Ruth Neese on 28.09.2011 at 19:24 (Reply)

        Sometimes a distant relationship cannot be redeemed, especially when the involved parties are solidified in their reactions to each other. Instinctive responses blind them to any other options.

  7. Paul Leclerc on 28.09.2011 at 19:15 (Reply)

    I really liked it. I started off a little skeptical but within the first 20 pages or so, I was hooked.

    I too liked the interweaving of past and present and liked how the book’s artifacts (hair, salt,etc) made their way into the haggadah. Each character added their own value throughout the history yet each one could have been a whole story by themselves.

    At times though, the cast of characters started to get a little long! I forgot who certain people were and why they were important. I almost felt like I needed a roster!

    Would love to hear others’ opinions on what the phrase “People of the Book” meant to them.

    1. Ruth Neese on 28.09.2011 at 19:17 (Reply)

      To me, the “People of the Book” meant Jews as a people and the individual characters that had contact with the Haggadah.

    2. Kimberly on 28.09.2011 at 19:18 (Reply)

      At first I associated the title with Jewish title of the “chosen people” but I can also see “people of the book” as book lovers - Jewish or otherwise.

    3. Valerie on 28.09.2011 at 19:18 (Reply)

      The phrase People of the Book has/had double meaning for me. At first I thought it was the Jewish nation in general, the book being The Bible. Then it became those who had a part in the journey of the Haggadah.

    4. Laura on 28.09.2011 at 19:22 (Reply)

      Like others, by the end of the story, I thought of the title as literal. The stories we’d read were all people who’d had meaningful interaction with this beautiful book—whatever their religious background.

    5. Marina on 28.09.2011 at 19:22 (Reply)

      I interpreted “people of the book” to mean any person who loves and values books. One of the main themes of this book is that our humanity should unite us more than our religion or ethnicity.

    6. Tom Rhoads on 28.09.2011 at 19:24 (Reply)

      I thought the people of the book were all of the people who were in any way impacted by the haggadah.

    7. Paul Leclerc on 28.09.2011 at 19:51 (Reply)

      Yes to all of these… people who the book is about (the Jews), people who “made” the book and also all of us who read it. I was surprised that the phrase didn’t come up until 1/2 way through the story (or maybe I didn’t notice it until then).

  8. Tom Rhoads on 28.09.2011 at 19:21 (Reply)

    I liked it once it got to the history of the haggadah. I agree with others who felt the story about Hanna and her mother didn’t add anything to the book. Maybe it was to make her more real, with real problems that had nothing to do with her line of work. It seemed a little forced, though.

    1. Jenni on 28.09.2011 at 19:29 (Reply)

      I agree, it did seem forced. At the same time, I think it helped her grow as a character-she realizes once she meets her father’s side of the family that she does have her own ‘people’ that are like her, that accept her for who she is. Her life and her career choice made more sense to her. I also kind of liked how each of the characters explained their relationships-or the relationships with their parents. Her relationship with her mom (and dad) it reminded me of the relationship Ruti and Reuben had with their parents-Reuben was supposed to learn his father’s craft, and brought shame on the family, while Ruti desparately wanted to learn.

      1. Paul Leclerc on 28.09.2011 at 19:35 (Reply)

        Ah! Yes. Very good point. I hadn’t made that connection.
        One of the things that I began to love was those sorts of connections between characters in the past and present. How some relationships were similar in their loving & brutality & arrogance.

  9. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 19:21 (Reply)

    What did you all think of Hanna’s mother’s decision to cut the young Hanna off from the Sharanskys — did this seem at all realistic? It wasn’t as if they’d had a rift before Hanna’s father died. The revelation of her father’s identity was a nice bit of suspense but I found myself thinking it was all very odd.

    1. Laura on 28.09.2011 at 19:23 (Reply)

      Yes, very odd! Hate to say it, but the words “plot device” came to mind when I got to that part.

      1. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 19:26 (Reply)

        thank you, Laura, I didn’t have a term for it, but that’s what I felt. if nothing else, the Sharanskys could have helped out with child care! :)

        1. Valerie on 28.09.2011 at 19:27 (Reply)

          As a grandma, I can’t believe the grandmother wouldn’t have figured out a way to win her son’s lover over to help her with Hanna.

      2. Valerie on 28.09.2011 at 19:26 (Reply)

        Yes, this was the reason for Hanna’s prickliness.

    2. Valerie on 28.09.2011 at 19:25 (Reply)

      I would have thought that Hanna’s mother would have wanted her daughter to know her grandmother. And I can’t believe the grandmother wouldn’t have wanted to be a part of the only child of her dead son. The grandmother might have been able to help Hanna’s mother raise Hanna. Hanna would have been amuch different person.

      1. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 19:26 (Reply)

        Yes, and I had the impression that that was what the grandmother did want. Odd then, too, that she had Hanna’s mother on the board of her foundation (or am I misremembering that part?)

        1. Valerie on 28.09.2011 at 19:29 (Reply)

          Her son was the one who named the two of them as trustees. You would have thought this contact would have given the two women a chance to bond!

    3. Tom Rhoads on 28.09.2011 at 19:28 (Reply)

      I didn’t really think about it when I read it, but it didn’t really fit with the storyline. It seemed like something that was added to mesh with the last chapter, but it more confusing than anything (for me at least.

      1. Kimberly on 28.09.2011 at 19:33 (Reply)

        agreed

    4. Kimberly on 28.09.2011 at 19:31 (Reply)

      for me - and I say this not having a background in writing books - I felt like most parts of the mother/daughter segments were the author’s efforts to “insert” some sort of obligatory rapport writing technique between reader and character. if it had been removed, the storyline of the Haggadah’s travels/experiences would not have suffered.

    5. Ruth Neese on 28.09.2011 at 19:31 (Reply)

      People who are decimated by grief do very strange things that look positively insane in hindsight. Distancing oneself from all memory of a deceased loved one is one extreme coping mechanism. The distancing would include extended family members of the deceased. Also remember the religious differences; by Jewish law, Hanna was not a Jew. Your mother must be Jewish.

      1. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 19:34 (Reply)

        That is a fascinating idea, Ruth, of her decision as an extreme coping mechanism — especially since she was the one who brought about his death. Speaking of which — did THAT seem realistic to anyone? I know I keep dwelling on the realism of this story but I guess it’s because I kept shaking my head at every turn and wondering about it.

        As for Hanna not being a Jew…the Sharanksys didn’t seem like the kind of family who would have worried about that. They seem like they’d have embraced her either way, no?

        1. Ruth Neese on 28.09.2011 at 19:40 (Reply)

          Coming from my background, yes, it was quite realistic.

          1. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 19:41 (Reply)

            So interesting! Are you comfortable saying more about this? Do you mean your background as an emergency nurse?

            1. Ruth Neese on 28.09.2011 at 19:57 (Reply) (Comments won't nest below this level)

              I have worked in a wide variety of hospitals, from large teaching institutions to small community hospitals. I have seen physicians “allow” patients to die because of desires expressed by a particular patient and because of assumptions made by the attending physician. Dr. Sarah Heath’s head was at war with her heart as Sharansky lay dying with an intracranial bleed. Her head would have said “Save him!” at all costs and blindness be damned. Her heart said life without sight would have been more than Sharansky could bear. Since we are never provided with his perspective, I don’t have an inkling of which choice would have been more ethical.

        2. Valerie on 28.09.2011 at 19:42 (Reply)

          The fact that Hanna was the only child of her father would have had some bearing on the family’s feeling about her, I would think.

      2. Tom Rhoads on 28.09.2011 at 19:34 (Reply)

        Good point, although it wasn’t clear that Hanna’s mother had distanced herself from her deceased husband’s love ones. It seemed, from my reading, that she had just kept it from Hanna.

      3. Jenni on 28.09.2011 at 19:44 (Reply)

        Oh, really good points. I do agree-I think that the Sharanskys would have accepted her. However, maybe Hanna’s mother was so embarrased that she couldn’t save Aaron’s life, that she wanted as little contact with the Sharanskys as possible, and didn’t want her daughter have any? Still, what a lonely life.

    6. Sarah/sawcat on 28.09.2011 at 19:45 (Reply)

      I didn’t think about it much as I read it, but thinking about it now, it seemed a long way to go in order to give Hanna something to fall back on after the deception by Heinrich and Karaman. If she had known about her father, his family and the foundation all along, then she might not have been a conservator, and thus encounter the haggadah.

  10. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 19:24 (Reply)

    and what did you think of Nura’s decision to “give” Al-Mora to the doctor? Was she being imperious, or looking to save her friend’s life?

    1. Tom Rhoads on 28.09.2011 at 19:31 (Reply)

      I think she decided that was the best way to save both her friend and her brother. She would rather escape with them, but there was no way for all three to be together so she did what she had to do to save their lives.

    2. Valerie on 28.09.2011 at 19:36 (Reply)

      This ended up in the wrong place! It was a reply to this question.
      I think she wanted to save her life. She also sent her brother. I think this was to make Al- Mora more comfortable as well as to also save her brother.

      1. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 19:40 (Reply)

        I guess I thought this too, but it was interesting to me that she didn’t give Al-Mora any acknowledgement — a hug, a kiss, a raised eyebrow — anything. I guess she didn’t want the doctor to know about their relationship, but I thought given her bravery in other matters that she could have risked that kindness.

        1. Valerie on 28.09.2011 at 19:44 (Reply)

          I think she would have broken down or changed her mind had she done so.

        2. Kimberly on 28.09.2011 at 19:47 (Reply)

          yes, acknowledgement would have been natural … but perhaps it would have jeporadized the security she just arranged … her sign of genuine love?

          1. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 19:50 (Reply)

            i like this idea.

    3. Paul Leclerc on 28.09.2011 at 19:41 (Reply)

      Nura had to show disregard to disguise the fact that she loved both children so much. Had she actually entrusted them to the doctor instead of tossing them aside, the King’s son would have noticed and tried to kill them to hurt Nura.

      1. Ruth Neese on 28.09.2011 at 20:01 (Reply)

        Quite possible. It was very common at that time to “give” slaves and children to others for various reasons. Apprenticing in a trade would have been a plausible reason for Nura to give both to the doctor.

  11. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 19:32 (Reply)

    Why do you think Father Vistorini saved the Haggadah in the end? And what did you think of his character?

    1. Kimberly on 28.09.2011 at 19:36 (Reply)

      this character’s about face completely surprised me! reminded me just how many live in a code of silence

    2. Valerie on 28.09.2011 at 19:38 (Reply)

      He was originally Jewish, I think. That part was a little confusing to me. He remembered that and he was also drunk!

      1. Valerie on 28.09.2011 at 19:39 (Reply)

        I think the Jewish rabbi knew that the Catholic priest would do things differently when drunk!

        1. Tom Rhoads on 28.09.2011 at 19:45 (Reply)

          There is that, too. Vistorini thought that he was hiding his serious drinking problem, but clearly people knew about it. Maybe he realized that and started to pity himself. Making the choice to save the book may have been his way of doing something he could control.

        2. Ruth Neese on 28.09.2011 at 19:46 (Reply)

          I thought he signed his name in a desperate drunken attempt to reaffirm his new Christian identity and deny his previous life as a Jew. That choice did not seem to be working well for Father Vistorini.

          1. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 19:48 (Reply)

            Maybe as a former Jew he couldn’t bear to destroy a book that was so precious…but he also had to affirm his current identity, so he signed his Christian name.

          2. Kimberly on 28.09.2011 at 19:49 (Reply)

            interesting idea about why he signed his name the way he did

          3. Paul Leclerc on 28.09.2011 at 19:54 (Reply)

            Yes. Agreed. His equivalent of our “drunken dialing”… “drunken signing”. When drunk, put away all cell phones and pens.
            I think his compassion had been wrung out of him by that point in his life.

            1. Kimberly on 28.09.2011 at 20:02 (Reply) (Comments won't nest below this level)

              haha. punchy at 9pm, eh?

    3. Tom Rhoads on 28.09.2011 at 19:41 (Reply)

      I felt that Vistorini hated his life and his occupation. I think he saved the book because he realized that he had abused his power to torment possibly the closest person he had to an only friend.

    4. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 19:46 (Reply)

      The bit at the end of the Vistorini story where you find out that he has a foreign accent because his parents were murdered Jews — i found that haunting. It’s one of the pieces of the book that has stayed with me the most.

      1. Valerie on 28.09.2011 at 19:54 (Reply)

        Yes. Another example of how cruel humans can be.

      2. Tom Rhoads on 28.09.2011 at 20:04 (Reply)

        I thought the ending fit well with the history of the book but not so well with Hanna’s story. It was likely an attempt to bring the two stories together, but again it seemed a bit forced.

  12. Sarah/sawcat on 28.09.2011 at 19:33 (Reply)

    I really enjoyed the novel. I enjoyed the peak at what a conservationist does, and how she gives us history for the things Hanna found in the book, along with the guesses at how those things got into the book. I think Brooks is on her way to being one of my favorite historical fiction writers.

    And I must say, having visited Boston earlier in the year, her description of the Boston traffic is spot on. And that amused me greatly.

    1. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 19:45 (Reply)

      Me too. I knew absolutely nothing about book conservation prior to this. Not sure I knew it existed as a profession all its own.

  13. Valerie on 28.09.2011 at 19:35 (Reply)

    I think she wanted to save her life. She also sent her brother. I think this was to make Al- Mora more comfortable as well as to also save her brother.

  14. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 19:44 (Reply)

    Were you surprised by Ruti’s boldness in rescuing her brother’s baby, etc.? Why do you think her parents underestimated her so much?

    1. Ruth Neese on 28.09.2011 at 19:48 (Reply)

      Her parents viewed Ruti through the blinders of being saddled with a dowry-less daughter that would probably end as a spinster. At the time of the Inquisition, women were forbidden to learn to read, whether Christian or Jewish. Just being able to read was an act of defiance for Ruti.

    2. Tom Rhoads on 28.09.2011 at 19:50 (Reply)

      I think her parents underestimated her simply because she was a woman. She also had to hide who she was and her passion for learning, and she hid it well. Clearly they didn’t know the same young lady who we, the readers came to know. I loved that part of the story, but was not surprised at her courage.

      1. Valerie on 28.09.2011 at 19:51 (Reply)

        Yes. You have said this well!

    3. Kimberly on 28.09.2011 at 19:52 (Reply)

      this story, for me, had deep impact. Her strength to re-convert in such dangerous times took guts!

    4. Jenni on 28.09.2011 at 19:54 (Reply)

      Yes, she did say that she had a ‘double life’. I think that she liked presenting the sweet and innocent side to her parents-partially because it was conforting, especially to them. I think she did it because she loved them. Also, with the pain that they were going through with Reuben, converting to Christianity, she probably didn’t want them to disappoint them. She didn’t let on that she wanted to learn a man’s profession. In the end, she couldn’t go back to her family or continue her relationship with the book binder, so perhaps this was the only solution she could think of, to start a new life for herself? I wish I knew what happened to her.

    5. Paul Leclerc on 28.09.2011 at 19:59 (Reply)

      When she brought the baby into the sea, I thought that she was going to drown it and had mentally moved myself towards that outcome. When she brought the baby back up to the surface, I was very happy. Ruti’s story was the most suspenseful for me. Lots of bold decisions (Kabballah, sex, running away, midwife, mother)

      1. Jenni on 28.09.2011 at 20:02 (Reply)

        I agree. There was so much going on in that chapter. It was also so difficult to read all of the cruetly injustice going on, and how badly Reuben was tortured. I think I teared up once or twice, especially when Ruti’s father was killed so brutally.

        1. Jenni on 28.09.2011 at 20:09 (Reply)

          I actually got kind of mad when I thought she was going to drown the baby. It made me think of Lola watching Isak and Ina drowning-glad Brooks didn’t put us through that again!)

          1. Kimberly on 28.09.2011 at 20:29 (Reply)

            oh, the Lola story was intense!

      2. Valerie on 28.09.2011 at 20:02 (Reply)

        Yes, I thought she was going to do that too. It was very emotional for me at that pont!

      3. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 20:05 (Reply)

        I thought the same. I think Geraldine Brooks did a great job with that one! I think we were especially primed to think she would drown the baby, after the bit in the Resistance chapter where the boy drowns himself and his sister. And oh gosh yes, the torture scenes with Reuben have, unfortunately, also lodged themselves in my head and I can’t get rid of them.

        1. Ruth Neese on 28.09.2011 at 20:12 (Reply)

          Never read the “Malleus Maleficarium” unless you want nightmares.

        2. Ruth Neese on 28.09.2011 at 20:13 (Reply)

          Never read the “Malleus Maleficarum” unless you want nightmares.

          1. Ruth Neese on 28.09.2011 at 20:16 (Reply)

            Sorry about the double post.

            1. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 20:31 (Reply) (Comments won't nest below this level)

              I’ve never even heard of it and am not going to look for it!

            2. Ruth Neese on 28.09.2011 at 20:38 (Reply)

              It was a book written during the Inquisition that describes every possible means of torturing confessions out of people. It would make a serial killer proud. Yech!

      4. Tom Rhoads on 28.09.2011 at 20:22 (Reply)

        I thought she was going to drown the baby, but then when we learned what she was really doing I thought even more highly of her. That was a great piece of writing.

  15. Valerie on 28.09.2011 at 19:50 (Reply)

    Jews at that time had more regard for the sons. They put everything into their oldest sons, who would inherit the major portion of their parent’s wealth. He would become the next patriarch of the family. The girls would grow up and leave to become a part of another family when they married.

  16. Kimberly on 28.09.2011 at 19:53 (Reply)

    Any reactions to the ending - the fake? the teacher who betrayed?

    1. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 19:54 (Reply)

      Kimberly, I submitted my question (see below) at the same time as you! Funny.

      1. Kimberly on 28.09.2011 at 20:02 (Reply)

        😀

  17. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 19:53 (Reply)

    Here’s another question: what did you think about the suspenseful ending of the book, where Hanna is betrayed by her mentor? And: would you have forgiven Orzen?

    1. Kimberly on 28.09.2011 at 20:05 (Reply)

      Aussies …

      1. Kimberly on 28.09.2011 at 20:07 (Reply)

        i don’t think i would recover easily or rapidly from a mentor’s betrayal. true though that she forced that relationship to happen. didn’t she show up in the rain on his doorstep?

        1. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 20:27 (Reply)

          but he was always calling her “liebchen”! :)

          1. Kimberly on 28.09.2011 at 20:30 (Reply)

            sneaky old man :)

    2. Valerie on 28.09.2011 at 20:07 (Reply)

      I would have had a tough time forgiving him, but to not forgive is harder on the one holding the grudge!

      1. Kimberly on 28.09.2011 at 20:31 (Reply)

        SO true!

    3. Ruth Neese on 28.09.2011 at 20:09 (Reply)

      That was a despicable display of predatory behavior that crushed Hanna and caused her to doubt her abilities. It still happens today in academia. As for forgiving Orzen, probably not, for failing to have enough courage to out the substitution.

    4. Sarah/sawcat on 28.09.2011 at 21:06 (Reply)

      I think it would have been easier to forgive Orzen than Heinrich, although Hanna seemed to forgive Orzen awfully easily. I wouldn’t probably have forgiven Orzen that easily.

  18. Elaine on 28.09.2011 at 19:58 (Reply)

    I read the book late at night on my Kindle with only the small light attached to the Kindle cover. Once when I happened to glance around my darkened bedroom, I felt as if I’d been on a journey.

    As a former librarian, I was interested in the preservation and restoration aspects of the story. As a mother who didn’t always agree with my mother’s ideas about child-raising, I completely understand limiting the contact of a grandmother and her grandchild.

    1. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 20:00 (Reply)

      Love this image, Elaine. I know exactly what you mean. (and I read it by the light of an iPad!)

    2. Valerie on 28.09.2011 at 20:00 (Reply)

      But to totally cut off the grandmother from the grandchild? The only grandchild from this son?

      1. Valerie on 28.09.2011 at 20:01 (Reply)

        That is too cruel….

        1. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 20:03 (Reply)

          also, in this case the grandparents had done nothing wrong - there was no reason to cut them off.

    3. Paul Leclerc on 28.09.2011 at 20:09 (Reply)

      I read the last 200 pages in one sitting last night with just one light shining on me too. I got lost in the journey and didn’t notice that it was 12:30 but I *had* to finish it.

      1. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 20:14 (Reply)

        i just love that feeling of having to finish a book, even if it’s a disaster for a good night’s sleep. i had that feeling with this one too.

  19. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 20:02 (Reply)

    Here’s a more general question for you all — by the time you reached the book, having just been immersed in centuries worth of cruelty — but also love and courage — how did you feel about humanity?

    1. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 20:02 (Reply)

      sorry, that was supposed to say, by the time you reached the end of the book…

      1. Ruth Neese on 28.09.2011 at 20:06 (Reply)

        There may be a chance for humanity yet. I too, am grateful to be living in this time period!

    2. Valerie on 28.09.2011 at 20:03 (Reply)

      It made me very grateful for being alive at this time in history!

    3. Tom Rhoads on 28.09.2011 at 20:08 (Reply)

      It reaffirmed my belief that most people are kind and empathetic, but also fearful enough to rationalize almost anything.

    4. Shannon on 28.09.2011 at 20:08 (Reply)

      It really made me think about the cruel things done in the name of religion. But there were many hopeful characters that were able to see past their religion and just see the humanity in other people.

      1. Tom Rhoads on 28.09.2011 at 20:14 (Reply)

        I agree, Shannon.

      2. Sarah/sawcat on 28.09.2011 at 21:14 (Reply)

        That’s exactly what I think. Too much bad stuff has been done in the name of religion, and sadly it still happens today. Just can’t let those types of people force or keep you down. At least now it doesn’t seem to be on quite as large a scale, for the most part.

    5. Marina on 28.09.2011 at 20:09 (Reply)

      I think there will always be cruelty in the world..but also there will always be hope and brave people. Hopefully hope triumphs:)

    6. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 20:13 (Reply)

      My husband spent a lot of time working in war zones in many different countries and always says that in any given country, it’s only a small percentage of people who are really cruel — the problem comes when the situation is such that they get to wreak havoc on everyone else, and the vast majority then grown fearful and cowed. I actually find this view very helpful because it makes me less apt to despair of humanity altogether and more to focus on the vast percentage who are more or less good.

      1. Ruth Neese on 28.09.2011 at 20:17 (Reply)

        You just described the Spanish Inquisition!

        1. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 20:22 (Reply)

          What did you all think of the bit in the Holocaust story where Mordecai tells his followers not to live like pigeons, pecking for others’ crumbs, and Isak says “at least the pigeon does no harm”?

          1. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 20:23 (Reply)

            whoops, this was supposed to go in another place. am about to move it there.

      2. Tom Rhoads on 28.09.2011 at 20:17 (Reply)

        That is what I think, but it is good to hear from someone like your husband who has first-hand insights.

        1. Kimberly on 28.09.2011 at 20:20 (Reply)

          agreed. I appreciate his glass half full approach

      3. Kimberly on 28.09.2011 at 20:19 (Reply)

        … and the less-known beauty of the Cambodian culture. Cambodia is much more than Pol Pot’s mistakes. Cambodians are strong-spirited survivors.

    7. Kimberly on 28.09.2011 at 20:17 (Reply)

      one of the most meaningful books I ever read - a real eye opener: Humanity
      I read it in secret under Communist rule and left it there. to this day, I hope it has fallen into some meaningful hands and minds.

      http://www.amazon.ca/Humanity-Moral-History-Twentieth-Century/dp/0300087152/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1317258934&sr=8-3

      1. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 20:18 (Reply)

        thx for this recommendation! and can you tell us more about the situation in which you read it? sounds like an echo of People of the Book.

        1. Kimberly on 28.09.2011 at 20:19 (Reply)

          perhaps this is part of why the book gripped me

    8. Jenni on 28.09.2011 at 20:19 (Reply)

      It sort of made me think about how unheroic I feel. Many of the supporting characters in the story could have taken the easy way out, and instead they stuck with their morals and helped save people (and the book) from what should have been their fates (by hiding them, etc.). It makes me feel unheroic, being safe in my apartment, but I hope that if I am in the midst of injustice I can also act with good character and do the right thing, even if it’s uncomfortable (or dangerous).

      1. Ruth Neese on 28.09.2011 at 20:23 (Reply)

        All that is needed for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing-one of the various forms of an Edmund Burke quote.

        1. Jenni on 28.09.2011 at 20:28 (Reply)

          Yes, exactly. I was trying to think of that quote. Thank you!

      2. Kimberly on 28.09.2011 at 20:23 (Reply)

        i know what you mean! if the hardest part of your day is the wrong cup of joe at Starbucks, I mean really …
        we are so blessed

      3. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 20:26 (Reply)

        This.

  20. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 20:09 (Reply)

    Why do you think Orzen was so upset when Hanna wanted to intervene to help his son?

    1. Tom Rhoads on 28.09.2011 at 20:11 (Reply)

      Possibly he didn’t want to know for sure that she couldn’t be helped.

      1. Tom Rhoads on 28.09.2011 at 20:24 (Reply)

        Sorry - I meant of course he didn’t want to know for sure that he (his son) couldn’t be helped.

    2. Ruth Neese on 28.09.2011 at 20:19 (Reply)

      He was in a different place in relation to his son than Hanna. He was beyond acute grief and striving to “do something, do anything” and into acceptance of his son’s chronic condition. From that psychological and emotional place, what could advanced care do except cause pain and distress?

    3. Kimberly on 28.09.2011 at 20:25 (Reply)

      i appreciated that Hanna didn’t repeat her mother’s verdict to Orzen. at least not word for word.

  21. Elaine on 28.09.2011 at 20:17 (Reply)

    I think I’ve been more attentive to reports of present-day failures to resolve serious, sad, and senseless actions. Among the books I’ve chosen to read since I finished this book are one by a former FBI agent who recovered stolen art treasures, one by a Vietnam veteran who helps explain the reconciliation one might experience within after serving in war, and one about an American who sold U.S. secrets to the Israelis.

    1. Kimberly on 28.09.2011 at 20:26 (Reply)

      intriguing

    2. Paul Leclerc on 28.09.2011 at 20:37 (Reply)

      Title? What the heck! What’s another book to add to my wishlist. I’ve added 2 since we started this chat.

      1. Ruth Neese on 28.09.2011 at 20:40 (Reply)

        Ah, the hazards of book discussions. :-)

      2. Ruth Neese on 28.09.2011 at 20:44 (Reply)

        Here’s the FBI agent: http://www.amazon.com/Priceless-Undercover-Rescue-Worlds-Treasures/dp/0307461475

  22. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 20:25 (Reply)

    What did you all think of the bit in the Holocaust story where Mordecai tells his followers to soar like hawks, not to live like pigeons, feeding on others’ crumbs, and Isak responds, “at least pigeons do no harm. The hawk lives at the expense of other creatures that dwell in the desert.”? Would you rather be a pigeon or a hawk? Is there another option?

    1. Ruth Neese on 28.09.2011 at 20:35 (Reply)

      The hawk and the pigeon are integral to the healthy function of a desert environment. Too many hawks means too few pigeons and the hawks would starve or destroy each other. Too many pigeons and not enough hawks would mean too little seed for other creatures and the collapse of the ecosystem. Either a pigeon or a hawk is capable of causing harm. So, too many human “hawks” leads to excessive aggression and killing, like Pol Pot’s Cambodia. Too many human “pigeons” and the populace starves, like Ethiopia. Hawks and pigeons each have their place, as long as they are in balance. Personally, I would choose to be a hawk rather than a pigeon. The life of a prey animal is very stressful.

    2. Tom Rhoads on 28.09.2011 at 20:42 (Reply)

      I thought it helped define the characters and their situation but I wouldn’t want to be either a pigeon or a hawk if I could choose. I’m not sure which bird analogy, but I would want to be able to fend for myself but not not at the expense of others.

  23. Elaine on 28.09.2011 at 20:35 (Reply)

    Despite my stereotypical bookworm’s myopia, two years ago I spotted a large nest high up in an oak tree in my backyard. With the assistance of a decent zoom lens on my camera, I was able to determine that three young hawks were sharing the nest.
    I’ve never noticed pigeon nesting practices but, somehow, I think the hawks’ nest was a better place to greet the world.

  24. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 20:36 (Reply)

    THANK YOU EVERYONE FOR PARTICIPATING TONIGHT! What an incredible discussion. Can’t wait for the next one — send me your book recommendations!

    1. Ruth Neese on 28.09.2011 at 20:42 (Reply)

      Thank you for moderating! I really enjoyed myself.

  25. Susan Cain on 28.09.2011 at 20:40 (Reply)

    P.S. The official end to tonight’s meeting was 9:30 pm EST, but please feel free to keep chatting for as long as you like! This post and comment stream will be up indefinitely.

    THANK YOU again for sharing your ideas.

  26. Elaine on 28.09.2011 at 21:01 (Reply)

    Three books I’ve read recently:
    Capturing Jonathan Pollard by Ronald J. Olive
    Priceless by Robert Wittman
    What It Is Like to Go To War by Karl Marlantes

  27. Laura on 29.09.2011 at 08:08 (Reply)

    Hi Susan,

    Just wanted to let you know of a tech glitch last night. At around 8:30, I realized that my reply posts were no longer showing up. I did about 4 more (nothing) and then gave up. I just checked above and still don’t see them—I don’t know where they went! Hopefully it was only me this happened to. I sat in on another half hour of the discussion but eventually found it way too frustrating not to be able to join in and left around 9 pm to make dinner. But anyway, thanks for hosting another great book discussion and am very much looking forward to the next one. Will suggest any book candidates I think of. (Has everyone already read BEL CANTO by Ann Patchett? Somehow I never got around to that one but would love to read it and discuss.)

    1. Susan Cain on 29.09.2011 at 08:16 (Reply)

      Huh! Wow, sorry that happened. I have passed the question on to my Tech Guy and will work to solve it before the next meeting.

      Thx though for participating, I always enjoy your comments…and also thx for your great comments on Home. I keep meaning to get back to you on those, and will soon.

  28. Jon Nuelle on 29.09.2011 at 16:43 (Reply)

    Sorry I missed the “live” book discussion yesterday, but I’ve really enjoyed reading the comments today. I was participating in my Toastmasters area competition. (I joined TM earlier this year as a result of this blog, so thanks y’all!)

    I’m not completely finished with “People of the Book” yet (I’m about 80% pagewise). I’ve enjoyed it, and learned a surprising amount I think. The speculative/historical Haggadah sections have been uniformly more compelling to me than the (rather rickety) Hanna narrative frame. Overall, I don’t think the novel really holds a candle to Brooks’ “March.” But that’s an awfully high standard.

    1. Susan Cain on 29.09.2011 at 19:38 (Reply)

      Ok, Jon, I am adding “March” to the must-read list. You’re not the only one to make that comment!

      Also, I’m excited to hear that you joined TM as a result of this blog, and that you’re even to the point of competing. Would love to hear more about this. Any interest in doing a guest post on your experiences?

  29. Poppy on 20.10.2011 at 13:30 (Reply)

    Wanted to drop off a suggestion for a future Quiet Book Club - hope this is an appropriate place for it.

    The book is “The Thirteenth Tale” by Diane Setterfield, and I’ve just started it. So far, the characters seem very intriguing.

    1. Susan Cain on 20.10.2011 at 14:58 (Reply)

      Thx, Poppy, I’m going to check it out!

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