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61 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You Must Read This Book
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway is a tremendous book. Set in Sarajevo during the siege of the city in the 1990s, the story is told from the perspective of three citizens of the city. To hear them talking about the way the city was before the siege and the average lives that they had before the war started is heartbreaking. Each and every day is a struggle to...
Published on July 18 2008 by MacFly

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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not great
[Cross posted to LibraryThing and LivingSocial]

The Cellist of Sarajevo is not really about a cellist, though it is the cellist's music that provides the unifying thread between the three main characters. Arrow, a young female sniper, has compromised her beliefs and basically given up her youth in the siege. We follow her over the course of the cellist's 22...
Published on Jan. 27 2010 by Andrea


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61 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You Must Read This Book, July 18 2008
By 
MacFly (Regina, Saskatchewan) - See all my reviews
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway is a tremendous book. Set in Sarajevo during the siege of the city in the 1990s, the story is told from the perspective of three citizens of the city. To hear them talking about the way the city was before the siege and the average lives that they had before the war started is heartbreaking. Each and every day is a struggle to survive while trying to maintain some semblance of a normal life. The center of the story is about a cellist who plays to play every day for 22 days in a spot where 22 people were killed while standing in a line hoping for bread. He becomes a light for the darkness in a city of people desperate for something beautiful. While I found the story incredibly sad, it was also hopeful and reminds one of the role of the human spirit in any conflict. This is one of those books that will stay with me for quite some time. While a work of fiction, there are many elements that are true to this conflict. It made it look at it in a very different way that what you feel simply from news reports. I recommend this book to everyone.
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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and Incredible, Aug. 31 2008
By 
Spudwil (North Vancouver, British Columbia Canada) - See all my reviews
Everyone should read this book. I couldn't put it down; my kids had to forage for their own dinner one night because I just had to keep reading. From the great character development and suspenseful plot to the amazingly hopeful and satisfying ending, this book will take you through the whole spectrum of emotions. I love how it is concise and to the point, making it an easy read for everyone. Not a page is wasted on unnecessary tangents off the storyline and the reader feels as if he is right there in the rubble with the characters, feeling their fear and despair. Such a great lesson in humanity, hope, and the perils and senselessness of war. My hat is off to the author.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Marvelous Book of Enduring Themes Amidst War, July 19 2008
By 
Ernest Yanarella "Ernie Yanarella" (Lexington, KY) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This book alternately mesmerizes and inflames. Its depiction of the siege of Sarajevo manages to tell something universal and quotidian at the same time. Its universal themes of life, death, hope, and despair are delicately balanced by its success in providing a sense of the everyday lives of a handful of Sarajevans seeking to negotiate the dangerous streets and byways of this war-torn city. The cellist of Sarajevo, nowhere given a name, serves as a magnet for sociality and a center for wide-ranging commentary and interpretation. For many, his actions serve as a mirror to the souls of the city's inhabitants and their estimate of the possibilities for a better future beyond war. The work is also a trenchant critique of the ravages of war and their impact on the humanity of all the combatants.

For these reasons and so many more, it is so sad that the real-life Cellist of Sarajevo has taken umbrage at this book's publication. His outrage toward the book and its author mistakes the role of the fictional cellist as the central figure in the book and therefore an assessment of his motives. It is really the characters who go about their daily lives amidst the devastation, risking their chance death by the hands of the mountain snipers, and yet mustering the courage to hope beyond the seemingly hopeless situation who are the true heroes. It is they--Dragan, Emina, Kenan, and ultimately Arrow--more than he who in this book find resources among the ruins of their formerly lovely city to keep on going and discover forbearance in universal things that matter to us all if we are to retain our humanity, when anger, hatred, and violence would be the greater temptation.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A small masterpiece by Steven Galloway, Aug. 3 2009
By 
R. Nicholson - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Cellist of Sarajevo (Paperback)
Although a work of fiction, this book's founding premise is based on a real life event. To quote from the 'afterword'...

"At four o'clock on the afternoon on 27 May 1992, during the siege of Sarajevo, several mortar shells struck a group of people waiting to buy bread...twenty two people where killed...For the next twenty two days Vedran Samilovic, a renowned local cellist, play Albinoni's Adagio in G Minor at the local site in honor of the dead."

Galloway uses this horrific event and Samilovic's heroic gesture to give us a glimpse of the spirit human...replete with all its unsuspected strengths and soul-searching frailties.

The story sequentially follows three individuals during the span of days that the cellist is playing the Adagio.
They are Kenan, a father with wife and children who must make a dangerous trek every few days to get clean water for his family and neighbor.
Dragan, a sixty four year old who, because he works at a bakery, is able to get bread on a regular basis for his sister and husband.
And Arrow, a female sniper whose growing reputation for 'kills' is about to put her in a situation that will profoundly change the way in which she looks at and interprets her own existence.

And although the three individuals never meet, they are indelibly connected by the events happening within the besieged city and, in a more remote sense, by the fact that someone (the cellist) is trying to make a gesture to honor the fallen.

Galloway's book is special; special because he is able to cut to the chase when describing peoples most private thoughts when under duress. Each of the three protagonist is wrapped up in an series of tragic events over which they have no control but yet has profoundly changed their lives. Through their eyes we are privileged to witness not only acts of selfless courage but also of some mind-numbing inaction; things that make them realize some of their own previously unknown inner strengths and yet at other times, expose personal shortcomings that absolutely crush their self-esteem.

Although the book focuses mainly on those within Sarajevo, there is one glimpse into the effect the war has had on the the besiegers ( referred to as 'the men on the hill' ). And if you will bear with me, I'll give a brief account of a point in this book that moved me very much...

The 'men on the hill' have sent a sniper to kill the cellist; to kill him while he is playing to make a 'statement' to those who remain in the besieged city. Arrow has been assigned to protect the cellist by killing the sniper; she eventually finds him across from the plaza where the cellist is playing, in a remote window...through her scope she sees...

"If he moves, she will fire. But he does not move. The music is nearly finished, and he hasn't shifted a millimetre. She begins to doubt herself, wonder if he's real, if it's possible he's a decoy. But then he moves, and she knows what she sees is a person.
His head leans back slightly, and she sees that his eyes are closed, that he's no longer looking through his scope. She knows what he's doing. It's very clear to her, unmistakable. He's listening to the music."

Conclusion:
A truly remarkable book; full on insights that will make you want to stop reading and reflect.
5 Stars...more if I could.

Ray Nicholson
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Story About Humanity, Jan. 8 2009
By 
Coach C (Canada) - See all my reviews
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I read "The Cellist of Sarajevo" in one sitting and I have to say that it was the most emotionally invested I've been in recent memory over a novel. Set during the siege of Sarajevo during the early 90s, the fictional story of three main characters and a lone cellist will make you think more about what it means to be human, what humans are capable of at their worst and at their best.

As for the writing, I found Galloway to be superb in the way he described some of the more terrible scenes of carnage. Also, the struggle for survival and the motives behind each character are very well developed. As mentioned, there is a deep emotional attachment as a reader towards the characters in the novel.

Overall I can find no fault at all with "The Cellist of Sarajevo." I would not be surprised to see this book turned into a movie someday, just a wonderful story of what it means to be a human being.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not great, Jan. 27 2010
By 
Andrea (Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Cellist of Sarajevo (Paperback)
[Cross posted to LibraryThing and LivingSocial]

The Cellist of Sarajevo is not really about a cellist, though it is the cellist's music that provides the unifying thread between the three main characters. Arrow, a young female sniper, has compromised her beliefs and basically given up her youth in the siege. We follow her over the course of the cellist's 22 days as she watches him and protects him. Dragan is an older man whose family has fled to safety while he stayed behind and now isn't sure what he has left to live for. Kenan still has his family and struggles every day to provide for them and maintain some semblance of happiness.

Ultimately, I didn't love the book and don't necessarily agree that it's a masterpiece. That being said, it was very good. Maybe I was expecting the book to be something other than what it was: I was expecting more of a plot-driven story and, given the title, I was expecting more a focus on the cellist himself. Instead, the book alternated between Arrow, Dragan, and Kenan and was much more character driven. There are moments of suspense and tension, but the focus is on exploring these people's experiences of the siege, their different coping strategies, the sacrifices and compromises they have to make on a daily basis. Galloway does a very good job with these themes but, as one of my book club members said about the experience, it felt like the book was building towards something that never materialized.

The writing was sparse, vivid and at times, beautiful, but I felt that the Arrow sections could have been much better. It seemed like Galloway was trying too hard with them, maybe because she was the only female character? Arrow as a character also left me cold, though I suspect that may have been the intended response. Because most of the book was more reflective, the moments when action occurred were that much more intense. I actually gasped at one point and got a bit queasy at another.

In the end, I think the book is worth the read. The ideas that Galloway explores are interesting and it makes you think about how you would react in a similar situation, at the same time praying that you never have to experience anything like it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars NOW I KNOW WHY, Aug. 19 2011
By 
Buggy "SUNNIE Day reader" (British Columbia, Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Cellist of Sarajevo (Paperback)
A few years ago while I was travelling in Europe I met a guy from Sarajevo and we became friends. At one point he asked me if I knew anything about what had happened in his country. I replied that I knew very little, only what I'd seen on the news. Sasha laughed and never said another word on the subject, which at the time I found strange. Now I know why, what could he possibly tell me say that I'd understand?

This is a beautifully written, haunting and thought provoking story that I only wish I could say I liked more. Because it is so well done though I also found it painful to read, depressing and absolutely futile, leaving me feeling angry at the whole world. Which I guess is the point and the ultimate result of any war.

I think what surprised me most is how little I knew about this conflict especially when you consider that it happened between 1992 and 1996. I mean that's not that long ago and it's not like this happened in a third world country either, this was modern Europe. I just finished reading a book set during the Second World War about the siege of Leningrad and this reads almost the same. How is that possible? How was this even allowed to happen?

Inspired by a real event this novel follows the lives of an unnamed cellist along with three others trying to survive in a besieged, war torn Sarajevo. It begins in the midst of a country gone mad, a mortar attack has just killed 22 people waiting in line to buy bread. Our cellist decides that to honour the dead for the next 22 days he will play at the point of impact. At 4 o'clock he dons his ragged tuxedo, sits in the bomb crater and plays. This simple courageous act creates a moment of peace and beauty among the rubble it also makes him a target.

Meanwhile a female sniper named "Arrow" is ordered to keep the cellist alive. Crouched from her perch in a bombed out building she waits for the counter-sniper who has surely been sent to kill him. She remembers back to a time when she went to college and flirted with boys at nightclubs and wonders how her life has became this?

The two other characters we follow disturbed me the most; An elderly baker on his way to work on his day off to get his daily ration of bread and a father making the long trek to "the brewery" to collect water for his family. A simple walk through the remains of the city has become a perilous journey. Mortars fall and the "men on the hill" go about their deadly business. Nobody is safe. Crossing the street had become a game of "Serajavan roulette" as the snipers pick off pedestrians. Should I cross now? Should I walk, run, crouch, crawl, go with a group? How do they decide who to shoot? But you need water and you have to eat. You have to make it across the intersection to keep your family alive.

These two men show us the city of Sarajevo as they walk through its remains and it very much becomes a character of its own here. The city shows us beauty and resilience and the men show us bravery, paralysing fear and humanity
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You must read this, May 27 2009
By 
Len (Slave Lake, Alberta, Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Cellist of Sarajevo (Paperback)
The cellist of Sarajevo provides a focus for Steven Galloway's snapshot of life in that city during the nearly four years of siege that took place from April of 1992 to February of 1996. His novel follows the lives of three citizens of the city, all directly impacted by the cellist and the tragedy he witnessed in a marketplace just outside his home where twenty-two people were killed waiting for bread. In remembrance of this tragic event, the cellist will play one day for each casualty. The "enemy" has surrounded the city and snipers shoot at any individual who might cross their line of fire so the army sends their own sniper to protect the cellist. Her name is Arrow and, like all the characters in the novel, her perception of the world has been profoundly affected by the war. And, like the other two characters in the novel, the cellist and his music awakens them to the beauty that still exists in the world and their humanity as it exists separate from the atrocities of war. There's little excuse for not investing the time to read this short and beautiful novel.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A very good read!, May 23 2014
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This was an excellent book to read...the characters' inner worlds can only be shared in a book.
We are all human but don't see each other as equal and precious. War shows us at our worst and when helping others, at our best.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Intersting read, April 16 2014
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This review is from: The Cellist of Sarajevo (Paperback)
First I was in Sarajevo last fall & saw the market where all the people were killed. I felt it was a sad city still. So I was most interested to read the book. It was well written & such interesting characters & their emotions about how they had been forced to live. Hard for us to believe that we would have to creep around our own city in fear of being killed.

It was also the book to read for Keep Toronto reading month.
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The Cellist of Sarajevo
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway (Paperback - Feb. 12 2009)
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