Sunday, March 28

Book Review: The Cellist of Sarajevo

Title: The Cellist of Sarajevo

Author: Steven Galloway

Pages: 258

Summary: Snipers in the hills above Sarajevo are tracking the inhabitants on the city streets below as the strive to go about their daily lives, uncertain when the next shot will land, nearly paralyzed with fear. In frightening form of "Sarajevo Roulette," Kenan steels himself for his weekly walk to collect water for his family on the other side of town; Dragan, a man Kenan doesn't know, takes his chances on the bridges and streets to find food.

Meanwhile, a shell has killed 22 people waiting in line for bread, as a renowned cellist wayched in horror. He vows to bear witness by sitting in the hollow where the mortar fell, defying the odds, and play Albinoni's Adagio once a day for 22 days for each of the victims. The Adagio is itself a triumph of hope over adversity, recreated and reimagined from a fragment found after the only extant score was firebombed in the Dresden Music Library during WWII,

Unbeknownst to the cellist, a gifted young female sniper "Arrow," watches his performances more avidly than most: she is the counter-sniper chosen to protect him from the enemy sharp-shooter she knows lurks nearby, his gun poised and read, close enough she can hear him sneeze, Can she keep the cellist alive as he plays his memorial to the victims? And what will it cost her?

My Rating: 10/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This book was absolutely stunning! Next to impossible to put down, the book is one of my favourite reads of the year, and quite possibly one of my all time favourite books. This was a library book, but it will be added to my own personal collection soon, and it’s hard to put to words why and how much I loved the book, but here it goes.

This book was powerful, haunting, beautiful and sad all at the same time, as the reader is pulled into the lives of a cast of characters, all who are tying to survive another day and one character, who sits in the demolished streets of the city, playing to the memory of twenty-two people killed in a bombing. His music becomes a powerful message of hope, even if it is a tiny glimmer to the rest of the community, that there is some spark of humanity and hope for a future left in their city and in them selves. But even though the book is named after the cellist, he is only a small part of the book, albeit a very powerful part of it.

The book focuses on three characters, all who are trying to survive another day in the best way they can. Some take the dangerous walk from their homes to the brewery so they can get a few days worth of drinking water, hoping they’ll be one of the lucky ones to be able to return home, and not one of the poor souls who will die, because they wanted to cross the street. The author is able to portray eye opening picture of what life was like during the siege and how humanity reacts to such horrible conditions, you really wonder what you’d do in a similar situation. Some parts were very powerful in what the characters would do in such desperate times, I won’t say too much, but the one part with “the man in the hat” was absolutely sad and beautiful all at the same time. The author’s job a writing that part and the emotions, actions and thoughts of the characters was spectacular. The rest of the book also has that same level of writing.

Arrow is a very interesting character and if there was one thing about the book I had issue with it was her ending. Well the entire ending of the book was one I wish I had more closure on. In a way I loved the ending, but at the same time I hated it. But the book was amazing, and I highly recommend it.

Would I recommend it to read: Yes, I would recommend it to read. It is an incredible story, many readers would enjoy. Although, I will say, it isn't "gory" but I think it can be graphic in violence. I can't remember how graphic, but people are shot in it, and bombs hit the streets etc. So a slight warning to readers who don't like reading that kind of stuff. It's still worth trying to read, because the book is well done, but I understand that some parts may not be for every reader out there.

What to read next: Suite Francaise, Diplomat's Wife

Challenges: Read 'n' Review, Pages Read, 10/10 Challenge, 52 in 52 Challenge,
100+ Challenge, A - Z Challenge, Canadian Book Challenge III, Countdown Challenge,
Historical Reading Challenge, Support Your Local Library Challenge,
Wish I Read That Challenge,


  1. I read this book about 1.5 years ago and was really affected by it, but then after a few months I could barely remember it. It ended up being a meh book for me by the end of the year. I heard from someone else who said the same thing. I wish it had stuck with me more. :/

  2. It sounds like I've had this on my shelf for too long without reading it!

  3. I have heard very good things about this book and have been interested in it for awhile now. I am glad that it was such an amazing read for you and that it goes on your favorites list. I am going to have to get off my butt and grab a copy of this wonderful sounding book. I bet I will love it as much as you did!

  4. I've been wanting to read this one for awhile. Thanks for the review!

    Diary of an Eccentric

  5. This really is a brilliant book. I adored it, too.

  6. Amanda - I think the book affects everyone differently. And I think it may also depend on the mood of the reader at the time too, in what they can get out of it.

    Shelley - Hopefully you can get a chance to read it soon. It sounds you are like me, have a lot of great books on the shelves, that sit there for a long time before being read, but end up being fantastic books, you wonder what took you so long to get to them.

    Zibilee - I hope you get a copy quickly, my library had a long wait list. Although now I'll probably buy it. Hopefully its a great read for you.

    Anna - Thanks for coming by, I waited for a while to, it was worth the wait.

    Carrie - It was. Now the only issue is, I want to own it, but my poor shelves have run out of space.