July 3, 2010

The Cellist of Sarajevo - Steven Galloway

Once a year, or so, I like to indulge myself by reading a book cover-to-cover in a single day. Out of necessity, this usually happens on a holiday, and this year, my chance came on Canada Day.

My motivation for picking up this book in particular was because I lugged it to Africa and back last summer without reading it, and I vowed that now that my next trip to Africa is looming, I wouldn't repeat history!

Now that I have read it, I wish that I hadn't taken so long to pick it up!

The book is set during the siege of Sarajevo (1992-1996), and it weaves four stories together of people dealing with living in war time. The cellist of the title witnesses a bomb kill 22 people lined up waiting to buy bread, and deals with the trauma by playing Albinoni's Adagio in the spot where the people were killed for 22 consecutive days (this is based on a true story). Arrow is a sniper fighting for the resistance. Kenan is walking across the city under siege to fetch water for his family. Dragan is walking to the bakery to buy bread. All four have been profoundly affected by the war.

I think that what I came away from this book with is an appreciation for the mundane, commonplace, happy days, as these characters long for their lives to get back to "normal".

The character that I felt the most drawn to was Arrow. She was on the university sharp-shooting team when the war broke out, and was reluctantly recruited to fight for the resistance. At the same time, she is fighting to maintain her integrity, and constantly questions her own actions. I also found it fascinating to read how a sniper has to think. (And yes, I am a pacifist who can't imagine ever handling a gun!)

The book was so compelling that I had trouble putting it down, and I think that the story as well as the writing will stay with me for a while. I finished it up just as the fireworks were going off to celebrate Canada Day, and it was somewhat fitting that the sound of gunpowder accompanied a book about war.

This will be my second book for the Canadian Book Challenge over at The Book Mine Set.

This will be my last review for a while, as I am headed to the other side of the world for a few weeks. I have some books packed to take with me, so will get caught up on my reviews once I am home again!


Wanda said...

Glad to her how much you enjoyed this book, Kate. It has received some mixed reviews but I think it is one I will likely pick up for future reading plans.

Wanda said...

Oh, and best wishes for a safe, productive and enjoyable trip to Africa and back home again!

mynovelreviews said...

I hope to read this one sometime soon - I've heard so many good things about it!

gautami tripathy said...

Great review!

I read it for the CBC2 and loved it. It remains one of my all time favourites.

I read The Tricking of Freya by Christina Sunley for CBC4!

jeanne said...

I just read this book too but haven't reviewed it yet. Thought it was fantastic. Definitely a book that stays in your thoughts for a long time.

Kate said...

Wanda - thanks! I had a great trip and now have to catch up with my reviews of books read while away.

mynovelreviews - definitely do - I'm still thinking about this book a month after reading it.

gautami tripathy - thanks!

Jeanne - I agree. As I said above, I am still thinking about it a month later. Every so often I encounter something that makes me think of this book.