Most of my reading this year has been guided by the latest releases picked up by The Wee Review and Neon Books. So it has been a while since I picked anything else up. This book caught my eye in a second hand Christmas book sale and the blurb looked very interesting. This is the story of Zlata Filipovich who lives in Sarajevo. She is 11 years old in 1991, when war breaks out in Bosnia and Herzegovina and she starts recording her experiences in a diary.
If it sounds similar to Anne Frank’s Diary, it is. It tells the story of a different war, through the eyes of a different girl, but fundamentally, the story is the same. The futility of war, the robbing of innocent childhoods and the utterly despicable nature of war is captured here.
Zlata is a regular pre-teen when war breaks out – going to school, getting top grades, loving piano and living life. But slowly the climate in her city becomes suffocating. And her family go into living in one room – often without heating or electricity or food. They lose many loved ones, their family friends, all of Zlata’s schoolfriends leave and they take on refugees from other parts of the country. All of this is written into ‘Mimmi’ which is what Zlata calls her diary.
Unlike Anne Frank, this novella has a happy ending. Zlata’s diary becomes famous in about two years, and her family and she are able to move to Paris because of its worldwide success. It is an unlikely tale, and goes the full gamut of emotions. But it provides a glimpse into what life is like during modern warfare and it brings home the horrific reality that hundreds of thousands of people are living in many countries today.