The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

About the book

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.

Reviewed by CC Readers:

Stark and brutal in its honest descriptions of fear and courage. Human nature exposed in desperate times showing both good and evil.

Star rating: ***

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5 thoughts on “The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway”

  1. Review by anon reading group:
    Group agreed this book was a compelling read of courage, losses and grief. Each character gave an insight into a world of chaos and harrowing circumstances. A good read.
    Star rating: ****

  2. Review by anon reading group:
    Group agreed this book was a compelling read of courage, losses and grief. Each character gave an insight into a world of chaos and harrowing circumstances. A good read.
    Star rating: ****

  3. Review by Arle Reading Group:
    This book explores the reality of living under siege through the medium of three different people’s lives. Some members liked the way each chapter focussed on one person’s experience, others felt the characters could have been more fully developed. A striking feature is how quickly and completely war lays bare the thin layer of civilsation. There was a steady build-up of tension in the story, but some felt the ending was rather flat and unconvincing. The ethical issue inherent in basing the novel around an event from a living person’s life was problematic for some members.
    Rating: ****

  4. Review by Itchen Reading Group
    The novel is set in Sarajevo during the seige. The plot revolves around three people, how they cope withe fear, take responsibility for others and cope with everyday life.
    Most of the group enjoyed the book, thought it raised many issues about war and our humanity or lack of it. However, the complete lack of context left one reader feeling that the book lacked credibility as it did not address the reasons for the seige, complicated though they were.
    Star rating: **

  5. Review by Fordingbridge 2nd U3A
    Bland characterization, interesting issues not dealt with adequately. Easy to read.
    ** 2 stars

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