I can definitely see why The Cellist of Sarajevo got longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Through a series of characters, the reader is shown various aspects of the seige of Sarajevo. The scariest part of this book? I was alive when this occured and I don’t remember ever hearing it in the news. I suppose I might have been too young, but it definitely pulled me back to reality regarding wars. I think reading it close to Remembrance Day was an appropriate way to reflect upon the things humans can do to each other. Definitely a core-shocker for me, but in a manageable way — I didn’t leave the book feeling like a horrible person, just reflective.

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Stephen Galloway tells the story of the seige of Sarajevo through the eyes of three individuals: a talented sniper who calls herself “Arrow” and kills the men in the hills, a man named Kenan who braves the streets to get water for his family, and Dragan, a man going to work at the bakery whose wife and son made it out of Sarajevo.

The reader is brought into the story in the midst of the seige; shells fall all over the city, but when one falls in the middle of a square while people are waiting in line for bread, 22 people are killed. A cellist saw this from the window of his flat, and has pledged to play in the middle of the square in honour of those who were killed: one day for every person. While no one knows the haunting song he plays, many, including our three main characters, are touched by it.

I don’t know how much more I can say about this novel and the beautiful writing, but to share a quote from the the early reviews:

“Steven Galloway’s The Cellist of Sarajevo is a wonderful story, a tribute to the human spirit in the face of insanity.” —Kevin Baker, author of Dreamland and Paradise Alley

Full disclosure: I received a copy of the book from the publisher for review purposes. This situation did not affect my review in any way, shape or form.