Kindle edition, published by AmazonCrossing, Seattle
Originally published by Remzi Kitabevi, Istanbul, 1999
Reviewed for Peacehawks by Jamie Arbuckle
The author describes her book succinctly and accurately in her introduction:
This book tells the story of the heroic and honorable people who survived the horrendous war in Bosnia that took place from April 5, 1992 to February 26, 1996, during which Sarajevo was held under siege for 1,395 days, without regular electricity, communications or water. Ten thousand six hundred Bosniaks – of whom 1,600 were children – lost their lives. Those who survived were pressured to accept the Dayton Agreement. With this treaty, 51 per cent of Bosnia was left to Bosnia and Herzegovina, while the Serbs, who comprised only 34 percent of the population before the war, gained 49 per cent of the land. (location 31).
She has thus told us both what this book is: a vivid portrayal of the events in Yugoslavia (as it still was) in 1991 and 92, seen through the eyes of the Bosniak community; and what it is not, which is history.
This book may be read and enjoyed for what it is: an entertaining and well-written novel. It is best in depicting the slow motion horror of the unveiling of the malevolence and cruelty of a very few men, who were determined to wreck a country with no idea of what was to replace it. The effects of this nihilism on the lives of common people, and the difficulty of replacing a society which has been so thoughtlessly and deliberately wrecked, is something we need to hear and not forget.
On the other hand, novels are fiction, and will vary in their usefulness as history. One who is genuinely interested in the history of these events will need to look elsewhere, because there are some gaps here. First, the importance of the relations between the Bosniaks and the Turks is in my view exaggerated, and my suspicions are fueled when I notice how this exaggeration seems to reflect a Turkish government policy about which I am also skeptical. Second, an entirely scurrilous attack on the UN and on one UN officer repeats the scapegoating of 20 years ago. Neither of these apparent plot devices are essential to the story, and together they seriously undermine the credibility of this book.