I finished reading THE CELLIST OF SARAJEVO a few days ago. Carol picked it for us to read this month for our book club.
I liked it. Everybody in the book group liked it, I think. There were criticisms. Cheri, for instance — I hope that's the correct spelling — didn't like it switching between viewpoints so often over against a more even and flowing story arc.
If life were longer, it was good enough it would definitely be among books I would revisit. I may, in any event. I liked it.
Did I already say that? I did.
I flatter myself thinking that I am a pacifist. I consider myself one. Of course, I'm not that good of a pacifist. But I'm opposed to killing. I'm against the death penalty, for instance. I take literally the "thou shall not kill" admonition in Christian Scripture. I take it literally even over against stories in various scriptures that illustrate something quite the opposite – I'm thinking of the Mormon Nephi-Laban killing. (No wonder so many people say the Mormons aren't Christians, ha ha).
The book is nicely put together. I found it well organized, with its characters carefully selected to illustrate the effects of war upon common citizens. Of course, all of the characters were good guys, from the cellist to Arrow, the sniper, who is on the side of those being shot at from snipers on the hills above and around the city. At least, I considered them all good guys. They felt real to me, given their circumstances. They seemed well-rounded within the parameters of their existence in war-torn Sarajevo during the war there in the nineties. Was of the nineties? Yes, in the mid--1990s. They also, ask characters, seemed flawed and at the same time displayed heroism to some degree or another. From the father, going to get water for his family and for his cantankerous, hard-to-get-along-with neighbor to a baker frozen with anxiety and worry about crossing a street for fear of being shot to death yet hungering and worried he'll starve if he doesn't cross and get something to eat. Over against them there was the clearly evil of the snipers on high, who represented the devil in war and killing.
I liked the book's originality. It stole, it seemed to me, enough of history to color in with sufficient original palette to make a nice, new detailed painting to accompany the sound of the one-man adagio commemorating the killed.
I found the book plausible.
The writing felt strong and vibrant to me.
The following represents some of the very powerful positions taken by characters in the novel:
"But power is rarely given up voluntarily. It's a question of who will prevail. She knows the survival of the city depends as much on the attitude of the defenders as it does on repelling the attackers. A city of the zealots and criminals isn't worth saving."
I highly recommend this book.