Better late than never, I'm just getting around to posting the discussion highlights from our meeting a couple of weeks ago.
We had a great turn-out for the meeting at my house to discuss Steven Galloway's "The Cellist of Sarajevo" - not bad for the week before Christmas!
The author doesn't go into the background of the Siege of Sarajevo, assuming the reader knows what happened. Many of us were a little ashamed to admit we didn't remember much about this war, although it happened fairly recently. We were also ashamed of our country and the rest of the world for allowing this to go on for as long as it did.
Everyone seemed to enjoy the book, although some of us had trouble getting into it and struggled with the inconsistent timelines of the 3 different stories (Dragan and Kenan's stories each took only a day, whereas Arrow's story took place over several weeks). Others hardly noticed the inconsistency, and it didn't bother them at all.
One idea as to why each story took place over a different length of time was that each story followed its protagonist through a change in their character, and the timing of this change was different for each person. We also discussed how Arrow's character didn't seem to change through her story - she stuck to her beliefs even though they cost her her life in the end.
We spent a bit of time discussing "the men on the hill." Who were these men? Why were the never named? What were their goals? The theory we came up with is that the author intentionally used this vague term to allow the reader to hate "the men on the hill" without their hatred being directed towards a certain ethnic group.
Everyone seemed to agree that this book really showed the triumph of the human spirit, even under such awful circumstances. The cellist seemed to embody this, although he seemed "shell-shocked" by the tragedy that he had witnessed.
As for the big question - why didn't the sniper shoot the cellist when he had the chance? - we didn't really come to a conclusion about that. One suggestion was that he was as moved by the cellist's performance as everyone else.
All in all, this book was thought-provoking and inspired a great discussion.
Happy new year - see you all in 2010!