Ron's Reviews > The Cellist of Sarajevo

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
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's review
Aug 06, 2011

This is an intriguing and powerful, if fictional, account of the lives of three people during the siege of Sarajevo in the early 1990s. It is based on a true event [the cellist playing the same tune day and day when he could have been killed] but developed fictionally by using the anecdotes of a professional counter-sniper, Arrow, and two ordinary men of the city going about a daily life of survival. At times the tension is strong and the reader is really drawn into the terrible risks of crossing a street, and the accounts of death and hatred [though the "evil men in the hills" are never described as any one group] vivid and compelling. I felt that this device of making the sides and religions and nationalism anonymous is effective in enabling us to imagine the fear and enduring humanity in any of a dozen war-torn cities in the last fifty years.

However, in my opinion, as a novel, is too short with an unsatisfactory ending. I would like to have known more of Kenan and Dragan especially; their lives are described so briefly that the effect is tantalising. We do learn a little of their earlier lives through occasional flashbacks and daydreams, but I was left wanting more insight so I could contrast their present horrors.

Nevertheless, this book is well worth reading and it does make me want to visit Sarajevo to see how it has been rebuilt.

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