Hanna Heath, an Australian book conservator, has been hired to work on the recovered Sarajevo Haggadah, in still-tense 1996 Sarajevo.
The Sarajevo Haggadah is a unique work, a centuries-old Jewish prayer book illuminated in the manner of Christian manuscripts of the time. It has also been a symbol of the multicultural heritage of Sarajevo. In working to conserve the book, Hanna discovers clues to its history--an insect's wing, a wine stain mixed with blood, some salt, a single white hair.
In alternating chapters, we get the history of the book, working backward from World War II and the Nazi occupation of Sarajevo, to its origins in a Spain where the Muslims had not yet been defeated, and the Jews had not yet been expelled, and Hanna's intertwined work to uncover that history as well as her discovery of her own, unsuspected family history.
The history is beautifully interleaved into the story, and Hanna's own personal and family history, as well as her difficult relationship with her mother, also unfolds with delicate skill. This is a wonderful book, not to be missed.
I borrowed this book from the library.