The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

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The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Karen Inskip-Hayward
Reviewed by Karen Inskip-Hayward
Summary: A compelling view of the conflict in Sarajevo.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: January 2009
Publisher: Atlantic Books
ISBN: 978-1843547419

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The break up of Yugoslavia and the ensuing conflict is something I know little of, despite it happening fairly recently. The afterword of The Cellist of Sarajevo explains how the siege of the city lasted from 1992 until 1996, yet I know more of the Holocaust in the 1940s. I hoped reading this novel would give me a better understanding of these events – and it did.

Although this novel is fictional, it is based on one particular event which did happen – a cellist who played at the site of a massacre for twenty-two days – a day for each person killed there. We see this event through the eyes of three characters whom we follow – Arrow, Dragan and Kenan.

The novel is organised in parts and chapters, with each chapter focusing on one of these main characters and the cellist himself. Each one experiences the conflict in different ways, but we can relate to them all, as they are very realistic and it is easy to empathise with them.

Arrow is twenty-eight years old and lives alone. She is an excellent shooter, so she is hired to protect the Cellist from snipers who wish him dead.

Kenan is almost forty and lives with his wife and children. He has to make the dangerous trek across the war-torn city to collect water, which will only last them four days.

Dragan is sixty-four and walks to his job at the bakery every day, if only to collect the free bread he gets. His wife and teenage son fled overseas before the war, so he now lives alone, hopeful they will all be reunited once the conflict is over.

These three people show you the desolation and danger of Sarajevo through their eyes. The actual amount of action is quite low, as the plot advances slowly, but that doesn't matter. The Cellist of Sarajevo is not a fast-paced thriller, but a snapshot of three small lives who help form part of an historic event.

I really enjoyed the novel and read it very quickly. I found I was going back 'just to read a few more pages' in any spare moment I had. The chapters are short enough to read several in one sitting and the entire novel is just 223 pages.

The writing style is very accessible. I was momentarily discouraged to see a quotation from Yann Martel on the front cover, as I never managed to finish The Life of Pi but The Cellist of Sarajevo is a completely different read – and, in my opinion, a much better one. While it is not the best book I have ever read, I found it enjoyable, educational and compelling and I would definitely recommend it.

If this book appeals then we think that you might also enjoy The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne.

Buy The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway at Amazon.com.


Booklists.jpg The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway is in the Richard and Judy Shortlist 2009.

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