Thursday, January 3, 2013
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
In a city ravaged by war, a musician plays his cello for twenty-two days at the site of a mortar attack, in memory of the fallen. Among the strangers drawn into the orbit of his music are a young father in search of water for his family, an older man in search of the humanity he once knew, and a young woman, a sniper, who will decide the fate of the cellist and the kind of person she wants to be.
I had read this book a while ago and now recommended as the first read of a new book group I am setting up. Two reasons I recommended it. 1) It was the One read Maryland book for 2012 and 2) In my opinion, it is a must read novel.
I think the author just gets the style right in this book. Writing it with a different chapter from the perspective of one of the four main characters just flows so well. It is a haunting story that is unbelievable to a person that has not experienced a war torn country first hand. What makes it even more haunting is that it is true - not a non fiction book - but based on an actual event both the siege and the existence of the cellist. At first I thought it would be about the life and thoughts of the cellist and loved the fact that you never get to know his thoughts and motivation. You have to use your imagination very heavily to understand what would make someone put themselves at so much risk to honour a number of strangers.
The writing was such that you were able to get into the heads of the characters even though their lives and experiences are as far away from your own as one can get. At one point I felt like I was actually inside Arrow's head hearing/reading her thoughts!
A very thought provoking novel that makes you truly appreciate the simple things in life, like having water without risking getting shot by a sniper to collect it, electricity and even simpler, being able to walk down the streets of the town where you live without being randomly killed.
4 out of 5 and the one star dropped because I think I would have liked the last chapter to be from the Cellist the way the first chapter was, it just seems a lot neater to me!