1. We've met two main characters: Dr. Hanna Heath and Dr. Ozren Karaman (Muslim). What do you think of Hanna? What do you think of Dr. Ozren Karaman, "a thin young man in faded blue jeans" (p. 13)?
I really liked Hanna straight off! I like her humour (for example when she talked about the backpacker on the plane) and the whole phone calls at 2am thing as well. I have to say that, in a way, I find her kind of disconnected from the world. She is passionate about her work, and has some connections to people who are all a long way from her every day world but still accessible, but she doesn't seem to have any really strong personal connections in her every day life.
I was surprised by how quickly Hanna and Ozren fell into bed with each other. To me it felt more in character for Hanna - she says in the book that as soon as feelings get involved she runs a mile. It felt less in character for Ozren, but then at the point where this happens, I don't think we know much at all about Ozren other than that he's a librarian who risked his life to save the Haggadah, and that he's younger than Hanna expected him to be.
I ~ (pp. 3-13)
2. When I reached the words: "And then he handed me the book" (p. 13), I wrote this note: "Oooh, I wonder what that must have felt like, to know you are holding such a treasure!" If you click on Mary Zorro's link, you have the closest we can get here at Book Buddies to having the book in our hands: looking at it page by page. What do you think of those illustrations?
I was so glad to have seen those illustrations. They are beautiful. Thanks Mary Zorro! I don't think that at this stage of the book there were a lot of really clear descriptions of what exactly we were looking at (other than the one that has the mystery African woman in it). I was thinking that they are probably still to come.
II ~ (pp. 13-25)
3. Hanna believes, "Change. That's the enemy. Books do best when temperature, humidity, the whole environment, stay the same" (p. 13). See what change has done to the actual Haggadah by looking at the UN photo Mary Zorro found. Have you ever been dismayed at what's happened to an old book you have seen? Tell us about it.
Not too long ago I went to an exhibition that was on at the State Library of Victoria where they are featuring many old books and looking at the progression of books through the ages. What I found amazing was how well preserved those books are. I know the question is have you ever been dismayed at what's happened to an old book, but as I think about the way I treat my books now - I read them and love them, I might reread them. I might just stand at the shelves and touch the spines. I reorganise them. Sometimes, if I can bear the wrench, I might take some out and dispose of them. In short, I USE them. How do I know that one of those books might not be something that someone a hundred years in the future might value and look at and think that they wished that the book had better care taken of it.
In a way I guess it is different for the Haggadah, given that books were so rare when it was created and then it was passed through the years. I guess my point is that in as much as the rebinding did damage the book, the people who did the rebinding would have been doing the best they knew how to try and preserve the contents.
4. I love my books for what they SAY, not for their physical properties. Book collectors value a book for itself, the THING, not the words inside. I can see value in both views. Tell us what you value about books. Hanna says:
"To restore a book to the way it was when it was made is to lack respect for its history. I think you have to accept a book as you receive it from past generations, and to a certain extent damage and wear reflect that history. The way I see it, my job is to make it stable enough to allow safe handling and study, repairing only where absolutely necessary. This here," I said, pointing to a page where a russett stain bloomed over the fiery Hebrew calligraphy, "I can take a microscopic sample of those fibers, and we can analyze them, and maybe learn what made that stain -- wine would be my first guess. But a full analysis might provide clues as to where the book was at the time it happened" (p. 17).
I too am more interested in the content of a book, but having said that there are some books that I own that I love just because they look beautiful. When you compare different covers around the world for the same book, I would definitely prefer to buy the one with the most attractive cover. Yes, I will read the book and hopefully enjoy the contents, but at the end of the day, in a case like that it is the attractiveness of the book itself that I am buying.
Of course, if I really want a specific book I will get it regardless of the cover.
III ~ (pp. 25-33)
5. "Kunta Kinte" (p. 28) ... do you remember (or know about) Alex Haley's 1976 book Roots, which became a 12-hour TV mini-series in 1977? Could we say this novel is about the "roots" of a book?
I vaguely remember the mini-series Roots but I was pretty young when it came out. I did immediately recognise the reference though, mainly because I think I remembered it from a documentary once where some African-Americans returned to Africa. In some cases they were deeply affected by what they found there.
Is this book about the "roots" of a book? Maybe. I dare say it is. I guess what I am interested to find out is the story of the lives that were touched by the book.
IV ~ (pp. 33-41)
6. Hanna believes that "if something can be known, I can't stand not knowing it" (p. 41). Can you understand that feeling? What were you thinking when Hanna implored Ozren to get a second opinion on Alia's condition and he becomes angry, saying, "Not every story has a happy ending" (p. 37)?
I do understand what Hanna believes, but don't think that I feel it quite so strongly as she does. For example, if I read a book about a subject that I suddenly find fascinating, then I will go off and read other books about that subject, but I generally stick to fiction. I don't really go as far as researching as such.
One thing I do love to do when I read about a place I find fascinating is go off on a virtual tourist jag and visit websites, google images, just generally immerse myself in the feel of a place! I LOVE it when a book makes me want to visit somewhere.
In terms of this book, I have to say that my interest is a little piqued to go off and see what Sarajevo looks like today - but I will save that for the end of the book!
I wonder if Hanna's idea to get a second opinion on Alia's condition is some how a gift to Ozren. She knows that she is already pulling away from him emotionally, and this is one way she can make a difference to him.
V ~ (pp. 41-44)
7. "Bits of butterfly don't generally wind up in books. Moths do, because they come indoors, where books are kept. But butterflies are outdoor creatures" (p. 43). So how did bits of butterfly wing end up in the book?
Someone took it on a picnic? Someone used the book to hold the body of a butterfly (a bit like pressing flowers) and a bit of the wing was left behind. No idea.
ETA: Sorry this was stuck up the top for so long. I posted using Australian time, instead of blog time!