Archive for the ‘Geraldine Brooks’ Tag

Race has several meanings   Leave a comment

Horse by Geraldine Brooks is much more than about the equestrian world. Along with some history of horse racing, other topics include slavery, art history, modern science and even romance. However, racism is the primary underlying theme throughout.

The narrative incorporates several threads across different, non-chronological time periods: 1850-75; 1954; and 2019. Blending perspectives and experiences of several characters across time to create a complete picture is one of Brooks’ trademarks.

Although Theo, a Black art history graduate student in Washington, D.C., in 2019, is the first character introduced, readers spend the most time with a 13-year-old slave identified by his masters’ name as Warfield’s Jarret in 1850. As the story progresses and Jarret matures, his owners’ names change as do his situations. Jarret has inherited his father’s horse training skills making a name for himself as an exceptional trainer working with Lexington, a thoroughbred whose lineage now extends through generations.

Other major characters include Jess, an Australian scientist working at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History; Thomas J. Scott, a 19th century artist, whose paintings of Lexington are a significant part of the plot; several of Lexington’s owners; and a 20th century gallery owner.

A discarded painting of a horse leads Theo to learn more about the work, and Jess to discover more about its subject.

As the novel moves back and forth through time, the issue of race remains a constant. Brooks’ deft approach provides an engaging look into the past and an important reflection on our times.

Horse

Four-and-a-half Bookmarks

Viking, 2022

401 pages (including “Lexington’s Historical Connections”)

Turning the Pages of the Past   Leave a comment

People of the Book traverses science, religion and history when rare book conservationist Hannah Heath is tasked with examining the Sarajevo Haggadah, rescued from the Bosnian War. In the process, Hannah unearths clues about its antiquity while restoring it for the future.

Geraldine Brooks has crafted an engaging account that delves not only into Hannah’s life, but the origins of the Haggadah, considered one of the earliest Jewish books created. Its vivid illustrations make it unique.

Thanks to Hannah’s expertise and the accessibility of modern technology, she’s able to take microscopic artifacts from the pages to analyze. The results reveal the book’s journey through Middle Eastern and early European history, with a focus on the persecution of Jews and a realization of the Haggadah’s significance and the need to protect it.

Hannah is introduced in 1996 where she first comes into contact with the book and discovers a miniscule part of an insect wing in the book’s binding. The chapters alternate between Hannah’s narrative and those of the people associated with the elements she uncovers in her analysis. While her life moves forward, the book’s moves backward in time and place. From the initial identification of the insect fragment traced to Sarajevo in 1940. to a feather and a rose to a wine stain, from salt to, finally, a white hair traced to 1480, the stories of those who held the book are told.

Hannah’s background also comes to light. Her own past confirms the unknown is part of everyone and everything.

People of the Book

Four Bookmarks

Penguin Books, 2008

372 pages, plus Reader’s Guide