Saturday, 30 May 2015

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

Paperback, 227 pages
Published 2009 by Atlantic Books (first published 2008)

Blurb: "A spare and haunting, wise and beautiful novel about the endurance of the human spirit and the subtle ways individuals reclaim their humanity in a city ravaged by war.

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.

A novel of great intensity and power, and inspired by a true story, The Cellist of Sarajevo poignantly explores how war can change one's definition of humanity, the effect of music on our emotional endurance, and how a romance with the rituals of daily life can itself be a form of resistance."

This book was eloquent, very moving and memorable. I didn't know anything about the siege of Sarajevo before reading this but I find it hard to believe that it happened in my lifetime. It has also brought into perspective that acts of violence and terror like this continue to this day.

The journey of these characters to remember what it means to be human when their world has been torn apart is truly captivating.

I don't feel like I can add any more without spoiling someone's experience reading it for the first time; but I encourage everyone to read this truly beautiful book.

10 out of 10.

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