The Eighth Life, written by Georgian author Nino Haratischwili, is one of the best books I have read for years. Because it is about a thousand pages and therefore heavy, it invites you to sit in a comfortable place, to focus yourself entirely on it.
While reading and after finishing the book, I felt sad and exhausted for and among all the characters. I was ready to cry at any moment. Still, I’m mournful because I finished it. Spending a whole century with a family makes it impossible to break off from them.
The Eighth Life tells the story of the Jashi family, which began in the 1900s and continued in 2007 with Brilka. In Tbilisi, Moscow, London and Berlin, the novel tells the story of war, peace, love, longing, friendship, family, politics, faith, hatred, despair, compassion and cruelty. To sum up, it tells the story of life itself.
The characters are so finely crafted that they will come to life in front of your eyes one by one, and you will have individual relationships with them all. You will hate some, love some, and want to take some of them out of the book and protect them so that they can live forever in peace.
On the other hand, you will learn a lot about Georgia, and think about communism, socialism, capitalism. But what you’ll think about the most will be the incapability of humans in creating and maintaining a peaceful world for themselves. I find myself thinking about how the world keeps turning despite all that pain.
It’s hard not to admire the author’s genius. She weaves the story like a spider weaves its web. The characters you knew at the beginning will appear again when you’re about to forget them. It will feel like seeing an old friend after so many years. You will be amazed at how this book can communicate with you in these moments.
When I thought about what to write about the book, I knew I could never do it justice. After all these words, I see that I’m right. You will feel sad, angry and desperate. However, your eyes will continuously search for the next word to flip the pages. If you’re only going to read one book in 2020, make sure it’s The Eighth Life. A must-read for all.
The Eighth Life
1900, Georgia: in the deep south of the Russian Empire, Stasia, the daughter of a famous chocolatier, dreams of ballet in Paris, but marries a soldier, and finds herself caught up in the October Revolution. Escaping with her children, she finds shelter with her unworldly sister Christine, whose beauty, fatally, has caught the eye of Stalin’s henchman. Disastrous consequences ensue for the whole family…
2006, Germany: after the fall of the Iron Curtain Georgia is shaken by a civil war. Niza, Stasia’s brilliant great-granddaughter, has broken from her family and moved to Berlin. But when her 12-year-old niece Brilka runs away, Niza must track her down and tell her the truth about their family — and about the secret recipe for hot chocolate, which has given both salvation and misfortune over six generations.
Truly epic and utterly absorbing, The Eighth Life is a novel of seven exceptional lives lived under the heat and light of empire, revolution, war, repression, and liberation. It is the story of the century.
Nino Haratischvili is a Georgian novelist, playwright, and theatre director, living and working in Hamburg, Germany and writing in German. She has received numerous awards, including the Adelbert von Chamisso Prize. The Kranichsteiner Literaturpreis, and the Literaturpreis des Kulturkreises der Deutschen Wirtschaft.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: