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The Cellist of Sarajevo [Paperback]

Steven Galloway
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (114 customer reviews)
RRP: £8.99
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Book Description

1 Jan 2009
This is the top 10 bestseller, now in paperback. Snipers in the hills overlook the shattered streets of Sarajevo. Knowing that the next bullet could strike at any moment, the ordinary men and women below strive to go about their daily lives as best they can. Kenan faces the agonizing dilemma of crossing the city to get water for his family. Dragan, gripped by fear, does not know who among his friends he can trust. And Arrow, a young woman counter-sniper must push herself to the limits - of body and soul, fear and humanity.Told with immediacy, grace and harrowing emotional accuracy, "The Cellist of Sarajevo" shows how, when the everyday act of crossing the street can risk lives, the human spirit is revealed in all its fortitude - and frailty.

Frequently Bought Together

The Cellist of Sarajevo + Goodbye Sarajevo: A True Story of Courage, Love and Survival + Besieged: Life Under Fire on a Sarajevo Street
Price For All Three: £20.47

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books; Reprint edition (1 Jan 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843547414
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843547419
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (114 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 43,689 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Steven Galloway teaches creative writing at the University of British Columbia. He lives in Vancouver with his wife, children, dog and cat.

Product Description


"'Though the setting is the siege of Sarajevo in the 1990s, this gripping novel transcends time and place. It is a universal story, and a testimony to the struggle to find meaning, grace, and humanity, even amid the most unimaginable horrors.' Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner * 'A grand and powerful novel about how people retain or reclaim their humanity when they are under extreme duress...While reading The Cellist of Sarajevo you are imaginatively there, in Sarajevo, as the mortar shells are falling and snipers are seeking to kill you as you cross a street. Your mind's eye sees, your moral sense is outraged: your full humanity is being exercised.' Yann Martel * 'Galloway's style is sparse, pared down; his prose has the deceptive simplicity of a short story. The work of an expert, The Cellist of Sarajevo is a controlled and subtle piece of craftsmanship.' - Observer * 'Startlingly good... With prose as unsentimental and deadly as gunfire, Galloway superbly captures the tense existence of a city under siege where daily tasks become a gamble between life and death, yet where a single note of music can exert a power equal to any bomb or bullet.' - Metro"

About the Author

Steven Galloway was born in Vancouver in 1975. He is the author of two previous novels. The Cellist of Sarajevo is his first book to be published in the UK.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
117 of 120 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that makes you think 24 April 2009
By Suzie
The cello, with its wonderfully rich and mellow tones, has to be one of my favourite instruments, so I was immediately drawn to this book. For a long time, though, I resisted reading it, fearing that war-torn Sarajevo would be a harrowing and morbid subject. Instead the book provided a riveting insight into the daily struggles of ordinary people caught up in a situation over which they have no control.

I hadn't realised until I read the author's Afterword that the idea for the story, itself entirely fictional, came from a true-life situation. A cellist sits at the same spot in a bombed street at the same time every day for 22 days and plays Albinoni's haunting Adagio in honour of the 22 people killed there by mortar shells while waiting to buy bread. It's a dangerous memorial - the cellist is, literally, a sitting target for snipers.

The book isn't about the cellist himself, though. It's about the inspiration and hope his music conveys to people caught up in a daily struggle to live and stay alive, as well as the tragic waste that inevitably comes with war. In many ways, this is less a novel, more a snapshot of the lives of three individuals during those 22 days. As they watch their beloved city crumble around them, services we take for granted like electricity and running water become so unreliable as to exist only in the memory, and obtaining food and fresh water becomes a matter of life and death.

Throughout the book the novelist concentrates on Kenan's efforts to carry sufficient water to last a week, both for his family and for an irascible old woman who lives downstairs and to whom he feels an obligation even though he doesn't like her.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I feel like I ought to love it but... 15 Feb 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I think the hype around this book hasn't done it many favours - I was expecting something big and profound, which turns out is not what this book delivers. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is certainly understated and `quiet' if you get my meaning. Perhaps the author chose this tone because he is writing about normal people who are trying to carry on with their normal life as their city is under siege. They are easy to identify with, which brings their actions and behaviour very close to your own understanding - There are few heroic actions that do not ring true, and the omnipresent narration lets us know what they are thinking, thus showing us their sometimes painful weaknesses. It is a sensitive story very much focussed on the internal world of a few of the citizens of Sarajevo.

But I was expecting to be moved more than I was. I think the narration was too simple to wake any real emotion in me. The Cellist makes an important gesture, but it isn't described with enough size or intensity. I found the same with Arrow, the female sniper - Her story could have been so involving and intense, but it didn't quite get there. There is no doubt that Steven Galloway has given serious thought to how the human psychology functions under such terrible conditions, and has researched his topic thoroughly. I was just expecting a little more impact, because undoubtedly his topic has plenty of scope for it. He's just not found it.

I can't help wondering whether this book should have been written by someone who was there. I can remember the siege of Sarajevo, it is so recent that the characters he describes could easily be alive today.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Devastatingly Well Written 6 April 2009
By Simon Savidge Reads TOP 1000 REVIEWER
The Cellist of Sarajevo is set during the siege of Sarajevo which took place in the 1990's although with the level of atrocities I couldn't actually believe that it had taken place so recently but then I suppose similar things are still happening now. The whole tale behind The Cellist of Sarajevo is a fictional work based on the true story of Vedran Smajlovic who actually played Adagio in G Minor for 22 days to mark the death of each of the 22 people killed in the street queuing for bread. Steven Galloway opens the book with the cellist going out and playing for the first time. However the book doesn't actually focus on him, more three particular people who have the cellist and his music enter their lives in some of the hardest times in their lives.

The three lives that we join during some of those 22 days are Dragan a man in his mid sixties, Arrow a female sniper and Kenan a man in his forties struggling without life's necessities. Each one of these characters has the cellist in their lives. Dragan for example, whose family had left Sarajevo whilst he has stayed behind to look after his apartment which sadly got bombed and now lives in his sisters house, can hear the cellist as he plays roulette with his life simply crossing the road to get to the bakers. Kenan does the same as he travels across the whole city with the possibility of being shot in order to collect fresh water as the resources are running low and he collects it for his family and neighbour (who is a wonderfully difficult disagreeable character). Arrow's story is the one that I found the most interesting, that of a female sniper who gets the job to protect the cellist from snipers and in doing so protecting the people of the city and their hope.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving and beautiful
A profoundly beautiful story that brings home the madness of war and the resilience if humanity. The cellist of the title is a peripheral character; the novel focuses on three... Read more
Published 3 days ago by BookWorm
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
really gripping and unusual story
Published 2 months ago by twlbailey
5.0 out of 5 stars An exceptionally good read, although at times it is rather harrowing
An exceptionally good read, although at times it is rather harrowing.
The book was my choice for my book group.
Published 2 months ago by Diane Harris
5.0 out of 5 stars The redemptive power of music
Chosen for my book club. Have read it once and will reread it shortly to go deeper. There is so much in it. Not a word or sentence too many. Very carefully written. Read more
Published 3 months ago by maryg
5.0 out of 5 stars The Cellist of Sarajevo
I am reviewing the novel The Cellist Of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway which is a beautiful and excellent story that I bought on kindle. Read more
Published 3 months ago by david roberts
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
I don't think that I've ever read a book so unclimatic, yet enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed reading this. I very much urge anybody considering reading this, to give it a go. Read more
Published 3 months ago by LAP
3.0 out of 5 stars good read
A book that really does draw you into the heart of the Bosnian conflict and gives an amazing insight into what life must be like for anyone living in a country or city under seige. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Natasha Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars Good product
This product was exactly as advertised, it was well packaged and arrived within the time specified. I would use this supplier again
Published 4 months ago by Flossiegill
4.0 out of 5 stars very moving
A sad and disturbing book, but also a tribute to the power of music to create and recreate. Highly recommended
Published 5 months ago by Tony Whatmough
5.0 out of 5 stars lyical
Just beautifully written around a terrible topic. Lyrical stories, personal and characterful, intertwined to develop an overwhelming impression of the time
Published 5 months ago by Jayne Lansdell
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