THE BOSNIAN LIST

KENAN TREBINCEVIC and Susan Shapiro

The Bosnia List is one of the best memoirs I have read. It describes the events leading to his Muslim family’s flight from Brcko, Bosnia, Kenan was a boy, 11, living in the city of Brcko when the Balkan war started in the former Yugoslavia. The Serbians, Orthodox Christian led by the convicted war criminal Milosevic wanted a larger county of citizen purely of their kind. So they attacked the roman Catholic Croatians and Muslim Bosnians. Bosnia was 45% Muslim, 32% Serbian and 17% Croatian. The war turned into a genocide with concentration camps, torture, mass killings and rape as a form of warfare. In Bosnia it was neighbour against neighbour, friend against friend. Kenan had to do the shopping and chores because if his dad or older brother were seen out side they could be shot or take to a concentration camp. “Although I was only 11,” he writes, “letting my family down made me feel like a failure.”bosnia  “The first sacrifice of war was her flowers,” he writes of his mother. “We kept our shades closed to avoid being sprayed with bullets. Without sunlight, her cactus and hibiscus withered.”  Kenan’s teacher caught him outside, put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger but luckily the mechanism jammed. His beloved karate coach Pero, who he loved and respected, threatened to kill him. “Everything he’d ever taught me about brotherhood and unity was a lie.”

Trebincevic returns to Bosnia armed with a list — the people he wants to confront because of their betrayals, and the places he needs to visit because of their childhood significance. First on the list is his need to accost Petra, a former neighbour across in their apartment building, who stole from Trebincevic’s now-deceased mother. “You won’t be needing that soon,” she would say as she took the mother’s possessions. They were scared of her because Petra could turn them into the military. They see that they are doing much better that the people left behind in Bosnia and that is a type of revenge in itself.

Although the descriptions of his family’s experiences during the war are gripping, the power of the book comes from the change in Trebincevic’s thinking and emotions as he moves through his anger and revenge fantasies. Trebincevic gradually remembers the help his family received. For every neighbour or friend who betrayed them because they were Muslim, another Serb neighbour or friend reached past religion and ethnicity to help — often at great personal risk. Ranko who was a torturer, rapist and mass murderer for some reason spared this family. Zorica and Milos, the neighbours who bring them food, propane and money.  This is definitely a must read.

THE ROSIE PROJECT

BookCover-TheRosieProject-01GRAEME SIMSION

Rosie is a light humerous novel that all can enjoy and laugh with. Don Tillman has Asperger’s syndrome. He has a total of two friends, his colleague at a Melbourne university, Gene, and Gene’s psychologist wife, Claudia, who gently guide him toward normalcy. Tillman flinches from physical contact and cooks all his meals according to an unvarying schedule. He attacks courtship by handing women a detailed questionnaire to test their suitability.  “Logically I should be attractive to a wide range of women.” He calls it the “Wife Project.” Until Rosie comes along. He finds Rosie to be “the world’s most incompatible woman . . . late, vegetarian, disorganized, irrational,” with her thick-soled boots and spiky red hair. Rosie wants to identify her biological father, and Don, a professor of genetics, offers to help surreptitiously collect and test samples of the candidates’ DNA. As they spend more time together their relationship deepens and develops.

I would say this is a must read.

 

“But I’m not good at understanding what other people want.’
‘Tell me something I don’t know,’ said Rosie for no obvious reason.
I quickly searched my mind for an interesting fact. 
‘Ahhh…The testicles of drone bees and wasp spiders explode during sex.”

“Professor Tillman. Most of us here are not scientists, so you may need to be a little less technical.’ This sort of thing is incredibly annoying. People can tell you the supposed characteristics of a Gemini or a Taurus and will spend five days watching a cricket match, but cannot find the interest or the time to learn the basics of what they, as humans, are made up of.”

RIPPER

ISABEL ALLENDErip

Allende is one of my favourite authors. Ripper, her first crime novel, is not one of her best but is still worth reading. One of Allende’s strengths is her capitivating characters and Ripper abounds with these. Healer and tantric therapist Indiana, is the heart of the novel. Her daughter Amanda is a geek wizard whose on-line friends tackle the task of uncovering the identity of the serial killer stalking San Francisco. At the first murder, “The Case of the Misplaced Baseball Bat”, where a school security guard is found dead by a class of fourth-graders, bent over a vaulting horse with a baseball bat stuffed into his rectum, she seizes on the occasion to rethink the strategy of Ripper, the interactive mystery game she plays online with “a select group of freaks and geeks from around the world.” The brainy players — including a paralyzed boy in New Zealand, a Canadian girl with an eating disorder and Amanda’s grandfather — will match wits with the real killer. Amanda’s father, bad news in high school when he seduced Indiana, is now deputy chief of police who is conducting an investigation into the serial killer but has trouble keeping up his daughter and her cohorts. Indiana has two main men in her life, one an ageing playboy, the other a disabled ex-navy Seal – are central players in the drama too, one ending up a murderee and the other a suspect for the series of deaths.

Lots of fun. Great writing.