List of Characters

Hanna Heath—narrator, book conservator.

Sarah Heath—Hanna’s mother.

Delilah Sharansky—Hanna’s paternal grandmother.

Aaron Sharansky—Hanna’s father.

Werner Heinrich Vienna—book conservator who was Hanna’s teacher.

Amitai Yomtov—Israeli book conservator.

In Sarajevo, 1996

Ozren Karaman—head of Sarajevo museum and Hanna’s lover.

Alia—Ozren’s son.

Aida Karaman—Ozren’s dead wife.

In Sarajevo, 1940

Lola—teenage Jewish girl who fights in resistance forces.

Isak—commits suicide while in the resistance forces.

Ina—Isak’s young sister who dies with Isak.

Branko—leader of the resistance force Lola joins.

Stela Kamal—young Muslim wife who befriends Lola.

Serif effendi Kamal—Muslim scholar who saves Lola and the Haggadah from the Nazis.

In Vienna, 1996

Amalie Sutter—Viennese entomologist who examines the butterfly wing clue.

Frau Zweig—chief archivist at the museum in Vienna.

In Vienna, 1894

Dr. Franz Hirschfeldt—doctor who treats Herr Mittl for syphilis.

Anna Hirschfeldt—wife of Dr. Hirschfeldt, who has a sexual affair.

Florien Mittl—book binder who steals the silver clips of the Haggadah.

Rosalind—woman with whom Dr. Hirschfeldt has an affair.

In Boston, 1996

Razmus Kanaha—chief conservation scientist and old boyfriend of Hanna’s.

Delilah Sharansky—Hanna’s paternal grandmother.

In Venice, 1609

Giovanni Domenico Vistorini—Catholic priest who signs his name to the Haggadah and saves it from being burned.

Judah Aryeh—Jewish rabbi and scholar.

Reyna de Serena—rich Jewess who gives the rabbi the Haggadah so the priest will sign it.

In Tarragona, 1492

David Ben Shoushan—Jewish calligrapher who finds and adds the illustrations to the Haggadah he is creating for his older brother.

Ruti—David’s daughter who saves the Haggadah.

In London, 1996

Clarissa Montague-Morgan—specialist at Scotland Yard who analyzes the cat hair.

In Seville, 1480

Isabella—young Muslim painter abducted and made a slave.

Netanel ha-Levi—Jewish doctor who takes in Isabella.

Hooman—Muslim painter who rapes Isabella.

Nura—wife of the emir.

Character Analysis

The protagonist of this novel, Hanna, is often described as being “plucky.” In other words, she is courageous. She is able to work under a lot of pressure, receives little or no support from her mother most of her life, travels to Bosnia in the middle of a war, and is not afraid of taking chances. Though in the end Hanna is completely discouraged about her abilities to determine an authentic manuscript from a false one, she does not let this stop her. She changes her focus and takes on different tasks. She is capable of reinventing herself. She is a fighter.

Lola, the young Jewish girl who lived in Sarajevo in the 1940s and worked in the resistance against the Nazis, is very much like Hanna. She faces terrific hardship, but she too is plucky. She works hard and is not afraid to take chances. When she asks to join the resistance, she knows she must come up with a skill that is valuable to the group. She knows nothing about taking care of mules, but she remarks that she was the mule of her family, so she thinks she can understand the animal. Lola helped her mother, who was a laundress, and carried heavy loads of dirty clothes through the city streets. Later, Lola hides in the city, pretending she is a Muslim. Lola, like Hanna, is a survivor.

The same can be said about Isabella, the young painter forced into slavery in Spain. To survive, Isabella pretends to be a boy when she is abducted. She came from a privileged family of many comforts but quickly learns to humble herself to her new owner. Isabella has natural skills as an artist, but she works under tremendous pressure, having to impress both her master and later the emir. Painting, in some cultures, is looked upon as an offense that might cost Isabella her life. But she hones her skills in spite of her fears.

Most of the males in this novel are background characters that play supportive roles to the women. The only man that Brooks gives much attention to is Ozren. Ozren’s personal character is hard to fully grasp. He is under constant pressure: from the war, the death of his wife, the constant vigil at his son’s hospital bed, and then the death of his son. He acts as if he might love Hanna. His love seems to be deeper than sexual, but Ozren does not have much to say throughout the story. At the end of the book, all that happens between Ozren and Hanna is that he reaches for her. There is no other expression of his emotions.  Ozren does display courage and commitment, however, in the way he protects the Haggadah.