OK, the two authors of this book had an important story to tell. These two sisters and their family lived through the Siege of Sarajevo, beginning in...moreOK, the two authors of this book had an important story to tell. These two sisters and their family lived through the Siege of Sarajevo, beginning in 1992. The Muslim family living in Sarajevo was very large - ten kids! Two of the kids, one twelve and the other fifteen were evacuated to Croatia. Another daughter was in Vienna when the siege began so she too later lived with her sisters in Croatia. The rest, along with their mother and father and two grandmothers lived through the Siege from March 1992 through November 1995. The mother chose to return to Sarajevo. 10.000 were killed. 60.000 were wounded. Remember this was in Europe; this was in recent times. And what did the UN do? Not much of anything.... What did the European Union do? Very little. It was very hard to listen to this because it felt so close in both time and place. It felt like next door! And I have been in Zagreb where the three girls in Croatia stayed. It spooked me. What happened to this family will shake you, and it is a story that needs to be told. If you want to know exactly what it might have been like to be there in Sarajevo during this war, read this book. You also hear what it was like for the three girls alone in Zagreb, not knowing what was happening to their family. You will get all the facts clearly presented.
It almost feels like a young adult book though. Why? because everything is explained very simply, but yes, also correctly. Their is love too, and jokes and the dialogs are what you hear on any modern day TV show. It is accurate, but don't look for nuanced ideas or skilled writing.
The narration of the audiobook was done by Bernadette Dune. It was fine, and you know what I mean by that. Not special, just OK. Just ordinary talking. It could have been better. Since the story is told by both twelve year old Hanna and her twenty-one year old sister Atka, it would have been better if the intonations were a bit different for the two. I didn't mix them up though. You always knew who was speaking because they were in different places. You could tell who was speaking by what was going on.
The content of the book pulls you in, but how it was written is just ordinary.(less)
I think this book is incredible – incredibly bad. Everybody loves this book, and this astounds me. I absolutely hate it. The writing is jumbled, full...moreI think this book is incredible – incredibly bad. Everybody loves this book, and this astounds me. I absolutely hate it. The writing is jumbled, full of nasty depictions and often indecipherable. It is a mixture of history, biography and fiction.
(But my opinion changes by the time I reach the end of the book, so please read on!)
Here is a chapter that plays with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand:
The horses are trotting stolidly and the coach is bobbing steadily, and Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s eyelids are listlessly sliding down his corneas. The weighty eyelids are about to reach the bottom, but then the horse on the left raises its tail - embarrassingly similar to the tussock on the Archduke’s resplendent helmet – and the Archduke can see the horse’s anus slowly opening, like a camera aperture……The left horse is dropping turds like dark, deflated tennis balls. (page 89)
This is to be found at the beginning of the story entitled the “Accordion”. I don’t find this enjoyable to read. One such description I can take, but repeatedly, over and over, this I find disgusting. I am sure you recognize that the author is playing with the facts, since the Archduke was assassinated traveling in a car. The writing is considered “experimental”. I can do without such experiments.
In a story called “Islands”, a child is speaking:
I went down the stairs and announced my thirst. Aunt Lyudmila walked over to the dark corner on my right-hand side - suddenly the light was ablaze – and there was a concrete box with a large wooden lid. She took off the lid and grabbed a tin cup and shoved her arm into the square. I went to the water tank (for that’s what it really was) and peeked over. I saw a white slug on the opposite wall. I could not tell whether it was moving upward or it was just frozen by our sudden presence. The dew on its back twinkled, and it looked like a severed tongue. I glanced at Aunt Lyudmila, but she didn’t seem to have noticed anything. She offered me the cup, but I shook my head and refused to drink the water which, besides, seemed turbid.
So they brought me a slice of cold watermelon and I drowsily masticated it . (page 8-9)
So tell me, does a nine year old speak with these words: masticated, turbid, “announced my thirst”? Every paragraph, if not every sentence is gruesome. And for what purpose? Just to be “experimental”?
As I mentioned above the writing is jumpy and confusing. What is the point with all this depiction of horrid situations? Why? I see no important message being imparted. Well, everyone else seems to understand, but I do not. I do not enjoy, do not see the point or the important message that is being imparted. So why am I splashing around in this muck?
And then I came to the story, “Blind Jozef & Dead Souls”. This is longer than the others. It could be classified as a novella. This is about an émigré, a young man who has left Bosnia. He has gone to the States and he remains there while the war rages in his home country. He reads of the Siege of Sarajevo of what is happening there tohis kin and childhood friends. It is about his emotions, how it feels being separated from home, how it feels in a strange culture, where nothing makes sense, how it is to be a foreigner in a strange land. It is also about how he sees life in the US. It is about where he belongs. Of course his views on life in America are absurdly true and comical at the same time. This is wonderful writing. It shows how it feels to be a refugee. It is amusing and poignant and sad all at the same time. You are still aware that this is the same author of the shorter stories. The reader does recognize the author’s unique style.
I am glad I read the book to the end. I would have to conclude that the author has a distinctive style and in at least one of the stories I empathized, laughed and learned how life as a refuge might feel. I am going to give the book three stars, because I liked that one longer story.
Just a word of warning: don’t expect a smooth comfortable read. Please keep in mind that I don’t even like comforting reads….. I prefer to be grabbed, aroused, upset, moved by the books I read. Such books in fact comfort me by their ability to distract me! (less)
Finished. About a bridge, a beautiful bridge. Through this bridge one finds hope. But the book is also about the passage of time and the folly of man...moreFinished. About a bridge, a beautiful bridge. Through this bridge one finds hope. But the book is also about the passage of time and the folly of man and the peoples and cultures of the Balkans. One percieves the smallness of man. There are no clear answers. Is it foolish to hope for a better future, and what is better? How does one judge progress? If there is kindness isn't life good? People are weak and mean and foolish, but at the same time they are kind and good and hard working. Both are true, and both will probably always be true. I believe the book says this.
Through page 199; One minute I am thinking I cannot go on reading because the cruelty of one human to another is just more than I can take. The writing moves me so, but then the lines change and the author makes me see the beauty of life. I am totally stunned. The writing flips me from one emotion to its opposite. The words in this books do this to me. This author can write, and he can see how people are - how terrible and how wonderful.
Through pPage 81: Still marvelous. Beautiful writing. Legends and myths and history all intertwined. The bridge is built (1571-1577) and it certainly wasn't easy. These troubles became the basis of fabulous legends. Then in the latter half of the 1700s their was a flood more terrible than any ever before. The waters rose a good thirty feet and the bridge was submerged, only to become visible again as the river's level lowered. The damage and devastation wrought by the flood was horrible, but of course time rolled on, life in the village continued:
"So, in the kapia(the terrace at the center of the bridge), between the skies, the river and the hills, generation after generation learnt not to mourn overmuch what the troubled waters had borne away. They entered there into the unconscious philosophy of the town; that life was an incomprehensible marvel, since it was incessantly wasted and spent, yet none the less it lasted and endured 'like the bridge on the Drina'."
I recommend looking at this bridge when you read the book. It is easy to find pictures on the web of this beautiful eleven-arched stone bridge. How what happened became myth is fascinating. The Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian and Turkish cultures and their respective religious constraints are described through the history fo this bridge, the bridge over the Drina at Visegrad in Bosnia.
Page 52 read: This author can write. A Nobel prize winner that can really write, that not only has a message but can truly write. Dam this is GOOD. He makes you see beauty and he makes you see horror. There is no skimming here; you want to catch every nuance. My heart is beating and I don't know what to do with myself. I have to stop before I can go on.(less)
Tremendous writer who depicts war through the eyes of a child and then 10 years later through the eyes of a young adult. Mostly it is about war and lo...moreTremendous writer who depicts war through the eyes of a child and then 10 years later through the eyes of a young adult. Mostly it is about war and love and imagination and all the opposite things you can imagine. I loved the imagination of the writer. A totally new writing style that I loved.(less)