The Cellist of Sarajevo, by Steven Galloway, is the best book I have read in years. What makes it so good? First, despite the immense misery heaped on the characters, there is a strong message of hope contained in the book. Second, it is an absorbing account of the siege of Sarajevo in the 1990’s, as told through the thoughts of the people who lived through it. Finally, it is an excellent story.
One of the most important qualities of a story is whether it contains a message of hope. This book, despite its deep immersion into the horrors of war, contains a strong message of hope. While the characters definitely experience moments of despair (who wouldn’t, having to live through something as horrible as a modern-day siege?), each of the four major characters displays through action a willingness to retain and manifest hope in spite of the horror.
Second, Galloway connects his characters and their unfortunate backdrop into an engaging story that leaves the reader wanting to know more about the characters. And while some of the characters demonstrate more continuity in response to the backdrop, others change dramatically when pushed. Humanity is nevertheless affirmed in all of the major characters.
Finally, Galloway is an excellent storyteller. He knows when to emphasize detail, and he knows when to make a major push to stitch together his message.
Throughout this book, I felt challenged, but I did not feel manipulated. I would recommend it highly.
I am putting together ratings of this and other books that I have read in LibraryThing.