Do you have a favorite author? This is a question librarians are frequently asked. I always found it hard to answer, as I eagerly await the latest title from many authors. Some are mystery writers, as I am anxious to reconnect with some of my favorite fictional crime solvers. Others I anticipate because I have enjoyed all of the books they have written. I could never pick just one.
However, now I find it easy to deliver a name when I’m asked this question. I answer Geraldine Brooks. She has only written four novels but she is a master of historical fiction. Her attention to the known past, while weaving remarkable narratives of hope, often amongst terror, leads to my enjoyment of her work.
When I read her first novel Year of Wonders, based on the 17th century English village Eyam, I was amazed by how adeptly she portrayed an English village caught in the deadly throes of plague. Her captivating story depicted both the bright and dark side of humanity as villagers struggled with feelings of fear, resentment and despair.
Her second novel March is based on the father from the novel Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott. Brook’s research included the diaries and journals of Alcott’s father Bronson. She created a character that is tested on many levels by the horrors of the Civil War. In 2006 this novel earned for Brooks the Pulitzer Prize in fiction.
Two years later Brooks published People of the Book, based on the famous Sarajevo Haggadah, which is housed in the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina. She creates a history of this illuminated book to chronicle anti-Semitism in Europe from the middle ages to modern times, while showing us how the goodness and courage of ordinary human beings can sometimes overcome barbarity.
In May her latest book Caleb’s Crossing was released. Set in the late 17th century, this tale is loosely based on the first Native American to graduate from Harvard. It recounts the lives of English settlers and Native Americans as they try to gain mastery over each other, while depicting the plight of women and men who triumph over their stereotypical gender roles. Geraldine Brooks again triumphs in weaving together an intriguing story with little known details from the past.
A former journalist for the Wall Street Journal, Brooks reported on the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans. She has written two works of non-fiction, Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World or Islamic Women and a memoir, Foreign Correspondence.
If you read one of her books, I hope you enjoy her work as much as I do!
You can click here to reserve a copy of one of Brooks' titles.