Bill's Reviews > The Cellist of Sarajevo

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
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's review
Feb 09, 09

bookshelves: fiction
Read in February, 2009

This novel follows three people during a few days in war-ravaged Sarajevo. The one connecting thread throughout is a cellist who, for 22 days, plays in the street in honour of the 22 people who where blown up while waiting in line for bread.

The author does a fine job of capturing the dangers of everyday life. Water has been cut off, food is scarce, so people must brave journeys through interstections and across bridges to get provisions. The danger is the ever-present snipers in the surrounding mountains.

The war in Sarajevo was a war of hate, and as one character describes it, the mandate of the snipers is to nurture that hate with each death, until what was once Sarajevo will be no more.

The plotlines involve a man's journey for water, another's journey for bread, and a woman sniper who is tasked with protecting the
cellist during his vigil.

This sounds like a great, great book, doesn't it? Unfortunately, I was left a little lukewarm to it.
I didn't find the characters all that engaging, and the presentation of the story was rather bleak. Understandably so, but I've read other stories where the bleakness served to encourage the reader on, for whatever hope there may be, take Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance, for example. The difference is that I really cared for Mistry's characters.

The story is a very quick read, which is good, because I don't think
another hundred pages could have held my interest.
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