Sunday, May 17, 2009

Review: The Cellist of Sarajevo- My thoughts

The Cellist of Sarajevo

Author: Steven Galloway
Published: 2008
Pages: 235
Genre: Adult Literature but I would recommend it for YA readers too!!

Synopsis:In a city under siege, four people whose lives have been upended are ultimately reminded of what it is to be human. From his window, a musician sees twenty-two of his friends and neighbors waiting in a breadline. Then, in a flash, they are killed by a mortar attack. In an act of defiance, the man picks up his cello and decides to play at the site of the shelling for twenty-two days, honoring their memory.Elsewhere, a young man leaves home to collect drinking water for his family and, in the face of danger, must weigh the value of generosity against selfish survivalism. A third man, older, sets off in search of bread and distraction and instead runs into a long-ago friend who reminds him of the city he thought he had lost, and the man he once was. As both men are drawn into the orbit of cello music, a fourth character -- —a young woman, a sniper -- —holds the fate of the cellist in her hands. As she protects him with her life, her own army prepares to challenge the kind of person she has become.

My Thoughts:
This book was utterly amazing!!! If I hadn't been reading Musings of a Bookish Kitty I would've missed out on this beautiful book. It takes place during the siege of Sarajevo based loosely around an actual event. A man plays his cello for twenty-two days out in the open for all to see, putting himself at risk by death from the snipers that are in the hills killing the citizens at will. I've read only one other book that pertains to this time in history and that was, Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Wartime Sarajevo, which was so gripping and opened my eyes to what these people endured. To help put their life and struggles into perspective, during the time I was reading this I was without power for three days because of a severe storm. I was feeling sorry for myself because I couldn't watch television or turn on the lights, make my coffee, or flush the toilet. The people in Sarajevo went without power for almost seven years. At times they would flip the switch by habit and the lights would be on!! This was a time when they would react quickly because they might be able to recharge their radios so that they could get news from the outside world. To get untainted water, one of the characters made the several mile hike to a brewery where a water source was available. But to do this, he had to cross streets and bridges which would leave him vulnerable to those that wanted to see him dead. This story revolves around Arrow, Dragan, and Kenan with the story of the cellist setting the scene. It is a fast and very involving read, one that you will find yourself not putting down and then when you do realizing how much we take for, electricity, running water, music, internet, phones, being able to cross the street and not fearing for your life. This was a powerful story that will stay with me for some time and one that I totally recommend to others. I know that it sounds so depressing and weary but it isn't at all, it's a story of how music connects humans to their memories, good and bad. It's a story of how music brings people together and gives them hope in the end.

I would like to share one passage that hurt my heart and made me really sit there and think about what is happening somewhere else on this planet while I take for granted my comfortable life.

"if we stay they will shoot at us from the hills until we're all dead, and then they'll come down just the same."
"The world will never allow that. They'll have to help us sooner or later." she says. He's not sure from her tone of voice if she believes what she says. He doesn't know how she could. They must both see the the same city disintegrating around them.
"No one is coming." His voice is harsher than he means it to be. "We're here on our own, and no one's come to help us. Don't you know that?"
Emina looks down, and fastens the top two buttons on her coat. She puts her hands in her pockets. After a while she says, very quietly, "I know no one is coming. I just don't want to believe it."

Interaction between Dragan and Emina while waiting to cross a dangerous intersection and bridge.

Other Reviews:
Caribou's Mom
Raider Girl 3
Printed Page
Books and Movies
Books for Life

If I missed yours please let me know so that I can post your link!!


  1. That passage is heartbreaking! Your review is excellent and based on that alone I'll add it to my list. I need to diversify my reading a bit and this looks like just the thing. Thanks :)

  2. I'm really looking forward to reading this. We lived in France during the siege of Sarajevo. I remember seeing trains carrying tanks, etc that way. Our son's school collected rice for the children there.

  3. I've been planning on reading this for some time but I think that I will go and request it now from the library. What a review Staci!

  4. What a terrific review of this book. So glad you thought it was as amazing as I did...and thank you for the link to my review!

  5. Great review, staci and talked me into reading it. Just put it on my wish list. :)

  6. That does sound like a wonderful, moving book. I'll have to keep an eye out for it. :)

  7. What a great review! I've had this on my list, and you've just reinforced it!

  8. This book was brilliantly written and heartbreaking - just as you said. I reviewed it here:

    Great review!

  9. Great review as usual Staci. You've made me want to go and grab this off my shelf where it's sitting right now.

  10. That really is a heartbreaking passage you included but incredibly powerful at the same time.

    I like to read about people trying to survive in difficult conditions. It seems that when we are tested, our true qualities come to light. I enjoy that aspect of reflection.

  11. AWESOME review!!!! SOUNDS like a GREAT book! :):):):):):):):):):)

  12. Staci, your review is very thoughtful. I'll have to bump this one up my pile for immediate attention. The story of Sarajevo is heart-breaking, and music is best to connect human beings in the most adverse time. I'm touched just by reading your review. :)

  13. I loved this book, it was haunting, and beautiful, and made me scared since now I know that it wasn't that far away.

    Wrote a review in my early blogging days

  14. It seems a lot of people I know are reading this recently! I'm glad to read another good review about it; I'm looking forward to reading it.

  15. Great book, huh? It was one of my favourite reads last year. I am glad you enjoyed it!

  16. It's great to read another very positive review. I look forward to fitting it in. :)

  17. This one is on my wishlist and it sounds like I need to move it up on the list! Your heartfelt and thoughtful review was wonderful. What a haunting passage.

  18. I am so glad you liked this one, Staci! You're right; it's such an amazing and powerful book. Great review!

  19. Thanks for reminding me that this is on my shelf and everyone seems to love it. I'll really have to get to it one of these days!

  20. I've heard such great things about this book and your review makes me want to read it even more. That passage you included was amazing.


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