Saturday, May 30, 2009

Review of The Cellist of Sarajevo

Set during the Siege of Sarajevo in the early 1990s, The Cellist of Sarajevo follows three individuals over a period of about three weeks as they try to live their lives in the chaos that is war. Although it is a novel, the story used the factual story of a reknowned cellist who sat amongst the rubble of shelled buildings day after day playing at the site of a massacre of innocent people waiting to buy bread.

The story follows Arrow, Kenan, and Dragan, all strangers whose paths do not cross throughout the book. Arrow is a sniper who has been tasked with protecting the cellist from enemy fire. Kenan is a family man who is responsible for making the trek across the city to get water for his family. And Dragan is a baker whose family has left the city for safety in Italy. They all have their respective 'targets' as the story progresses: Arrow is targeting the sniper who has been sent by the enemy to assassinate the cellist; Kenan is targeting the brewery where he will be able to find fresh water; and Dragan is targeting the bakery where he hopes to buy some fresh bread.

I found this book to be quite contrived. I did not believe in any of the characters because Galloway never let us get to know them. Perhaps this was intentional -- how well can you know someone who is living through the insanity of war? -- but it resulted in the characters not feeling fully formed (which in several instances became confusing and I often found myself confusing Dragan's and Kenan's storylines). I also did not like Galloway's writing style -- every sentence seemed overly crafted, as though each word was intentionally placed after the next, making several parts of the book feel affected and, as I said earlier, contrived. Which is too bad, because I think the concept for the novel was unique and could have been the basis of a much better story had it been written somewhat more skillfully.


No comments: