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4.1 out of 5 stars
Besieged: Life Under Fire on a Sarajevo Street
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 April 2013
This is the fascinating true story of 10 families living on one street in Sarajevo, Logavina Street, during the siege. Demick certainly chose a great street - Logavina Street was home to Muslim, Croat and Serb families, including a couple of mixed families. It was also home to one of Sarajevo's most famous Serbs, General Jovan Divjak, a man who identified himself as an `Orthodox Bosnian' and who left the Yugoslav People's Army to defend the city he loved by helping build the fledgling Bosnian Army.

This book provides countless quotidian details about life during the siege as well as detailing the people of Sarajevo's courage, endurance and black humour (for example, one of the bleakest jokes of that bleak time, after the besiegers cut off the gas many Sarajevans relied upon for cooking and heating, was: What's the difference between Sarajevo and Auschwitz? Answer: Auschwitz had gas.) The book also includes siege recipes, for example, for meatless schnitzels (basically, grind up some stale bread, shape it into patties and fry it).

In this edition, Demick returns to Sarajevo in 2011 and catches up with the surviving residents of Logavina Street, as well as offering a sober assessment of Bosnia's future. Throughout the book, Demick's depictions of the people she interviews are sensitive and insightful. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 24 November 2013
Very interesting and thought provoking to read about what people under siege have to live though to survive. Also about the very real danger that any moment you or someone you love might be killed, seemingly arbitrarily. However. The contents of the book to me lack real planning and flow. One moment it's this, then it's that. One family, then another, then back to the first family? Or is it? Being unfamiliar with the language structure, people's names become little more than semi-familiar patterns in the text and it got very confusing about who was who, had they had part of the narrative previously, how? Also seemed to jump around all over the place in terms of topic.
For me, I needed more signposting by timeline.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 October 2013
I bought this book as i had enjoyed Barbara Demick's book on North Korea. I found that as well as giving me more insight into the Bosnian/Serbian war, it showed the impact on the people who lived there and how difficult it was for civilians living in Sarajevo. As it is based on a collection of articles, there is some duplication of bits of information which could have been avoided with better editing but for all that it is well written and you commect with the people she writes about,
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 16 May 2013
I am a really big fan of the author due to her book "nothing to envy" about North Korea. This book was another well written account of life in Bosnia when the terrible conflict was going on. I would recommend the book for anyone who is looking to understand the impact the war had on families and the wider communities and how the conflict left societies view on each other. It took me days to read because I couldn't put it down. Excellent
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on 15 May 2013
I'm visiting Sarajevo this year so was interested in this account of how residents survived the seige of the early 1990s. While the author pays tribute to their courage and endurance, and clearly empathises deeply with them, she just does not bring them to life as three-dimensional characters. I had to keep looking back at the "dramatis personae" list at the beginning of the book, to remind myself who was who! Her style is very flat and too much like unimaginative reportage. If you compare this book with Katherine Boo's fully-realised portrait of a troubled community in "Behind the Beautiful Forevers", it's very disappointing.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
It has always been an incredible thought for me that a relatively well developed city like Sarajevo, which only ten years prior to the war with Serbian was hosting stars like Torville and Dean in the Winter Olympics, was subjected to a horrifying siege for forty four months. American journalist Barbara Demick has just published an intimate account of the events of that time, through the experiences of the residents of a single street in the Bosnian capital. And her account of exactly what it was like to live through the siege in Logavina Street brings the horrors of war to life in a way no normal historical or political account could do.

Logavina Street is six blocks long, and at the time of the siege housed mainly Muslim families, although people from all ethnic backgrounds also lived there. Demick spent a couple of years amongst the people there, and tells from firsthand experience how their homes and lives were shattered by the incessant bombardment from Serbian guns in the hills around the city. It is also a story of proud resistance, as the inhabitants developed ingenious strategies to get by, and refused to give into the Serbian bullies.

Each day was a constant battle to get the basic necessities for living, like power, water, and what food could be had, which was not much at all. Some people managed to escape, most chose to stay and fight. And some of the little details here are the most powerful, like the women who made sure they went out with their hair dyed and make up in place, before dodging the snipers' bullets. Recounting such small acts of defiance are what makes this book an extraordinary read.

It's also shocking to read again about how long the Serbian army was allowed to continue to massacre the civilians of Sarajevo, while other nations looked on. As the trial of Serb leader Radovan Karadzi' for war crimes rumbles on, the book is an important reminder of just what happened to ordinary, innocent people in Bosnia as a result of his and others' actions. It is almost impossible to put down - Demick brings the full horror to a vivid reality by relating it to the everyday experiences of the men, women and children who had to live through it.
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on 29 August 2013
This is the first book I read twice. I read prior to our trip to Sarajevo. The focus of the book is based on ordinary people living extraordinary lives who live on a particular city centre street. The book both moved and horrified me and I was appalled at the way these people had to live and the horrors they endured. During our visit, I needed to visit this street and photograph the street as it is now. When I returned, I immediately read the book again and I was more horrified than the first time. I put together a photobook re Bosnia and referred to this street with my powerful images.
A must read.
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on 12 May 2014
This was a fantastic idea - to focus on one street and people living on it. You will get attached to these brave individuals and be stunned of how determined and courageous a normal city dweller can become in times like this. This is a very straight forward book, it shows that the wold is not just black and white and everyone deserves to live with dignity but many people will never have this opportunity. It shows how useless big western armies can be and how heartless big organizations like the UN are
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on 15 January 2013
I loved this book. Not being a great reader of real life stories this has now sold me and I can now appreciate the gold bar that good female journalism has set. I was with those families as they adjusted to the dangers and losses of war in our era and how they recovered and dealt with coming out. I also felt the labour of love and intense empathy of Barbara in her first theatre of war. I shall read more!
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on 30 May 2012
The book provides a vivid engaging description about the lives of everyday people in the siege of Sarajevo.It blends facts with the narrative of those directly effected and through the account of their trauma the reader can easily empathise with the harm they experience. This account is hard to put down you want to know more about the families and their lives and their humbling survival in adversity.
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