Friday, September 2, 2011

5th Annual Canadian Book Challenge Review #5: The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

I remember that when this book came out a little while ago, there was a whole lot of fuss. On one hand, I heard some readers raving about how incredible it was. On the other hand, I heard about the controversy surrounding the author's use of a real individual's story. Either way, it seemed that plenty of people had plenty to say about it.

I, too, have a lot that I could say about it, but alas, I'm afraid that if I were to share all of my thoughts on this book, I would hurt the author's feelings too much - because the truth is, I couldn't get myself too excited about it as I read it. I found it rather repetitive, and the parts involving the sniper woman, Arrow - whom I initially really liked - reminded me of that movie with George Clooney in it called The American. In that movie, there is way too much time spent discussing guns - how to build them, how to select targets, how to shoot with them, etc. I think the same could be said about Arrow's chapters in this book, with very little actually spent on character development. Furthermore, I like the characters in the books I read to learn something - it doesn't have to be grand or beautiful or even politically correct; it just has to be something. By the end of the book - with the possible exception of Arrow - I'm not sure that they have.

Maybe I wasn't reading into this deeply enough. Maybe the occasional repetition of descriptions and even whole paragraphs was meant to symbolize the monotonous repetition of destruction in daily life. However, even amidst this kind of ugliness and brutality, I look for a writer - not just a character - to make something beautiful out of the situation and setting.

Let's face it - Sarajevo in the early 1990s was not a pleasant place to be. I'm not disputing that for even one second. I just hope that sometime in the future, it is handled more effectively.