Book Review – The Cellist of Sarajevo

Title:The Cellist of Sarajevo
Author: Steven Galloway
Genre: Historical Fiction|War
Length: 208 pages
Published: April 8th 2008
Goodreads link

One day a shell lands in a bread line and kills twenty-two people as the cellist watches from a window in his flat. He vows to sit in the hollow where the mortar fell and play Albinoni’s Adagio once a day for each of the twenty-two victims. The Adagio had been re-created from a fragment after the only extant score was firebombed in the Dresden Music Library, but the fact that it had been rebuilt by a different composer into something new and worthwhile gives the cellist hope.


        When I started my first reading challenge a few years ago and I saw there that it said “a novel set during wartime” I was kind of scared. I don’t read war books, I may occasionally see an action movie, but in terms of books, it’s a genre I’ve avoided because I don’t like battles, strategies behind war or weapons. Mostly too much suffering and death.

      I initially decided to start the Sven Hassel series because I have it on my TBR list probably from high school?! It’s that kind of book that was recommended to me several times, and I always said I’d read it and it’s still catching dust on my shelf. So I was very reluctant and when I got this book at an event I found the right time to replace Mr. Hassel with The Cellist of Sarajevo, it was about war, short and had a big font!

        And oh dearly beloved God is the last time I ever judge a book, this story played with my soul, what I originally thought to be a dull story about a cellist singing in the street turned out to be the devastating story of three characters, Arrow, Kenan, and Dragan, who have nothing in common, just meeting or hearing about The Cellist.

        What this book illustrates is not the classic story of the war, in the first line, among soldiers, colonels, and trenches. No, it’s a sublime outline of how the war affects collateral victims, who do not want any of this, who are struggling to remain human in the midst of the war that gives birth to monsters.

         This book didn’t make me suddenly want to read more books about the war, it didn’t open my appetite for action wars and blood. No, it made me see a face of the war that I didn’t know existed, that face that makes it really ugly but shows that there is hope. That mankind can still be saved, even if everything collapses around, there is still someone who brings water to an old woman he doesn’t like, a girl who still has principles and beauty and optimism.

         I wouldn’t know what to say bad about this book, even if it didn’t have a complex or surprising action, that wasn’t the purpose. It made me feel, it made me understand situations and feelings that I’ve never had to deal with before, it transported me there, to the bombed streets of Sarajevo, and I think that makes it an excellent book!

5/5 stars


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