Genre: Fiction, Historical, War Novel

Notes: This book is so beautiful.  I would have cried when I finished if I hadn’t been in a crowded laundromat.

Review: I’ve been reading like a fiend because I made a goal to read 50 books this year, and Goodreads (a website I use to keep track of my to-read list and bookshelf) keeps reminding me that I’ve only completed 26.   And it’s already August.  Thanks, Goodreads,  for sending me daily reminders of my failure.

This novel centers on an unnamed cellist (obvi) who takes to the street for 22 days straight during the siege of Sarajevo, braving sniper fire and mortar shells to play for 22 victims who lost their lives while waiting in a bread line.  The siege of Sarajevo was the longest modern-era siege of any capital city ever (according to the book jacket and Wikipedia), and it is estimated that 10,000 died or went missing between the years of 1992 and 1996.  The last book I read, The Lazarus Project, made me curious about the Bosnian War simply because I don’t really know anything about it, so “The Cellist of Sarajevo” seemed like a logical next book choice.  I hate to give history lesson in my blog posts, but suck it up.  History is important.

The cellist’s music  ties the stories of three Sarajevan citizens together.  A baker who sent his wife and son away before the siege truly began, a young father who braves the snipers and bombs of the streets to get water for his family every four days, and a sniper named Arrow who struggles to remain the person she wants to be.

Galloway, a Canadian with no ties to Sarajevo, writes this text elegantly and simply.  He doesn’t use long-winded, metaphor-laden sentences to describe the destruction and terror keeping the city captive.  He, very simply, uses the image of a cellist dressed in his tuxedo and wingtip shoes, playing a beautiful adagio, in a street filled with debris and broken bodies.

The novel is gripping and heart breaking.  It disgusted me that people can and will do this to each other, but it also reminded me that there is always something worth saving.  People can adapt.  People can survive even in the most terrible conditions.  The unthinkable becomes routine.  A death-defying run across an exposed bridge, praying the sniper on the hill doesn’t chose you, becomes a fact of life.  The book reminds you of the Biblical proverb “This too shall pass.”  Even when things seem desperate, deadly, and unceasing, something will change.  Things will get better and life will again continue.

Bottom Line: The book is awesome.  I’m just going to cut to the chase and recommend this to everyone.  The last line in the book packs a serious punch.