My mom loaned me this book and reminded me of what happened in Sarajevo in the early 90s. I kind of remember "Benefits for Bosnia" during my freshman year of college, and I feel guilty I didn't know more of the plight of this city. As the story takes place, Sarajevo is surrounded by snipers, "the men in the hills," who target civilians sending shells and bullets at random into the city. The water supply, electricity, everything has been cut off from these people. Their lives are in constant danger.
I really liked this book. It focuses on 3 characters who are living in Sarajevo during the seige that lasted about 3 years. It is fiction, but I'm sure paints a very realistic picture of how the war affected everyone's daily lives. It is so sad. The chapters alternate between a father carring empty plastic bottles tied to a rope across town to get water for his family, a man heading to the bakery where he works so he can eat a meal, and a young woman who is a defensive counter sniper.
The story is inspired by true events. Twenty-two people in line for bread were killed, and an acclaimed cellist witnessed it all. He then chose to play his cello, Albinoni's Adagio in G minor, for 22 days, in public, in their honor.
The Cellist is introduced in the first chapter, but then is only mentioned by the others. He is used as a catalyst for self-reflection and reasoning in the other characters lives. They are not heros, but they are trying to find meaning and purpose in the horrific situation they find themselves.
I liked the writing style of this Steven Galloway. I liked how it realistically shows the tragedies of war, without being gratuitous or gory. The characters are interesting and likeable.
Here are some quotes:
"But he could not refuse her. No person he would want to be would do that."
"Even if every building is rebuilt so it's exactly as it was before, he doesn't know how he could sit in a comfortable chair and drink a coffee with a friend and not think about this war and all that went with it. But maybe, he thinks, he would like to try. He know he doesn't want to give up the possibility."
In recalling his son's birth:
"Afterward he had an overwhelming feeling of benevolence, not just for his son, but for the world around him, wishing it were everything it wasn't, wondering what he could do to make things better."