By Ursula K. Le Guin in The Guardian. Excerpt:
Full of action but with no leavening of humour, no psychological revelations, no vivid language to focus description, the chapters grind on. Most unhappily for a historical novel, there is little sensitivity to the local colour of thought and emotion, that openness to human difference which brings the past alive.And anothe brief one by Simmy Richman in the Irish Independent. . Excerpt:
Brooks expends a good deal of anxious effort in trying to bring a modern sense of justice and ethical judgment into places and ages where it is an anachronism. People sneeringly call such anxiety "political correctness", a term that once had meaning but now reflects only the arrogance of the person using it. Brooks's earnest goodwill deserves respect, but the fact is a novel can get away with anachronism only when it is completely invisible, and these attempts to right old wrongs are all too visible. In the same way, a kindly feminism informs Brooks's efforts to invent women who were important to the creation and existence of the precious book - a tall order, among the old rabbis - but she persists; and so we find that the artist of the lovely illuminations was a woman, and a black one at that. This is not in itself impossible; the explanations are plausible; and I'd like to believe it - but I can't. The person, the artist, the world of the artist, have not been made real enough to allow me to believe it. It's just wishful thinking. It has not taken on the fierce reality of fiction.
So in the end I wonder if this might not have been a better book if, forswearing invention, the author, an experienced journalist, had simply followed the true and amazing story of the Sarajevo Haggadah. I wish someone could make a story or a poem of Buturovic's life and death. I know I will never know the story of the Iraqi with his arms full of books and his face full of anguish.
As the action switches from Sarajevo to Vienna, Venice, Barcelona and Jerusalem, Brooks concludes that the world is made up of two types -- those who would destroy books and those who would give their lives to save them.(Background to the book and to the Sarajevo Haggadah here.)