By Jim Bartley
“Drina Bridge, an ambitious debut novel by Jim Bartley, is, in some parts, not for the faint of heart. It’s difficult and dark, but very compelling. The first page is shocking, but take a deep breath and read on: It’s worth it.”
–The Globe and Mail
Following the death of his longtime partner Pimm, Chris Maitland travels to Yugoslavia with faded birth and adoption papers, hoping to trace the secrets of his lover’s past. It is 1992, and the Balkans are embroiled in conflict. Chris settles into guest quarters in a monastery in Serbia, where he is befriended by peaceful monks and surrounded by rugged beauty. But just beyond the forested hills, a brutal war rages inside Bosnia.
Meanwhile in besieged Sarajevo, a refugee from eastern Bosnia, Slobodan Kusic, is writing the story of his war-ravaged life – an impassioned, sardonic, sometimes surreal tale spurred by an encounter with a TV news crew in his ruined village. Chris obtains Slobo’s typescript through a friend and translator, and is soon hooked on its startling revelations. Could this portal into the labyrinth of Yugoslavia hold a clue to Pimm’s past?
Chris becomes increasingly involved with the life of the monastery and its threatened serenity. His time in Serbia stretches into a four-year personal and spiritual journey, involving an illicit love affair, a link to Slobodan’s childhood, and a final, harrowing trip into Bosnia. Drina Bridge is an intense, dark, deeply affecting tale of passion and conviction. Rich with history, it is infused with both the cruelty of war and the age-old quest for inner peace.
“Jim Bartley’s Drina Bridge is a sophisticated novel. The weaving of tales is deft (moments of confusion notwithstanding). Characters are well drawn and tensions are well crafted. Bartley does not shy away from graphic depiction of violence and his descriptions of tenderness and sexuality are vivid. He writes a compelling story, a poignant lesson in a particular history and in the contradictions of war.”
–Prairie Fire Review of Books
Raincoast Books, Canada, Fall 2006