The Cellist of Sarajevo: A Review
Steven Galloway's The Cellist of Sarajevo
Title: The Cellist of Sarajevo
Author: Steven Galloway
Published: May 15, 2008
Publishing Company: Riverhead Hardcover
Page Count: 235
Summary via Goodreads
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.
This is a beautiful book that I stumbled across while perusing the endcaps of the local Dollar Tree. Sometimes you really find gems there! The characters are rich, vibrant, and haunting. As there is danger lurking around every corner, and from the sky, the reader is constantly on the edge of their reading seat wondering if these four characters will make it out alive; in fact, the characters are wondering the exact same thing. Based on the true story of Vedran Smailovic, the determination of the cellist in the midst of chaos is admirable and speaks volumes about the resilience of the people who inhabit Sarajevo during the war. In addition, the dedication of Arrow, the young sniper, is impressive. She continually risks her life to ensure that the cellist is able to continue playing in the square and complete his memorial to those killed in the mortar attacks. Kenan, the only character with an identifiable family, risks his life to collect water every four days, in addition to bringing water back for a cantankerous neighbor. His self-sacrifice is wonderful to witness. Brilliant characters and shocking action keep the reader interested and invested in this little book.
Four solid stars. If you've never heard of this book, I wouldn't be surprised...despite the controversy surrounding it. However, I highly recommend checking it out. You won't be disappointed.