Cohen, who covered the Bosnian war for The New York Times, sees the tragedy as not just the cruelest stage in the destruction of Yugoslavia but as an ugly capsule of this century's evil. Rather than providing a general account of the war, he draws the reader into the shattered lives of three families -- a Serb family in Sarajevo and Belgrade, a Muslim family in eastern Bosnia, and a Serbo-Croatian family in Tuzla and Sarajevo. For Cohen, it seemed right "to consider Yugoslavia's destruction through families broken asunder, for this was a war of intimate betrayals." But the war was also more, and Cohen skillfully weaves searing personal tragedy with the agonizing developments on the grand political stage. He uses the story of one Bosnian's long quest to locate his missing father, a Muslim who collaborated with the fascists during World War II, as a very human thread through the history of Yugoslavia itself. His forceful, elegant prose pulses with anger -- anger against the Bosnian Serbs, their Belgrade patrons, and what he blisteringly calls the inhumane, bungling diplomacy of Europe and the United States.
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