A review by abbie_
The Eighth Life (for Brilka), by Nino Haratischwili

challenging emotional reflective slow-paced
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

(#gifted @thebookerprizes) Okay so. Okay SO. OKAY SO. This book. I’m going to need you all to put aside any qualms you might have about its 930 pages and just DIVE RIGHT IN to this beautiful, multigenerational family saga, history of 20th century Georgia, with a cursed hot chocolate recipe to boot! I can honestly say that 930 pages is STILL NOT ENOUGH. 😭
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Following seven generations of the Jashi family, mostly women, The Eighth Life (for Brilka) is written, you guessed it, for Brilka, by her aunt, both a family history and history of Georgia. I have to admit my knowledge of Georgia was very scant prior to this book, but Haratischvili has done the research and presented it for us in a comprehensive way that doesn’t detract from its incredible readability. There are facts and politics yes, but you will be ON. BOARD. TO LEARN.
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As well as learning, you’ll also fall in love with this cast of characters. I think Christine’s section was my favourite, but although they are split into sections, everyone’s life continues to weave in and out of other people’s sections, so you never have to be apart from your favourite character. Every character, no matter how minor, is fleshed out - every lover, friend, colleague, has a backstory, adding to the intense richness of the text.
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It’s such a special feeling to be able to watch these characters grow from children to adults, develop their personalities for better or worse. This is the kind of book that leaves you with an aching sense of loss when you finish it. It took me about a week to read and I still felt bereft when I closed it for the final time as these characters sink their teeth into you and refuse to let go.
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And the translation - can we just slow clap it out for Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin? 👏 I genuinely have rarely read a smoother, more readable novel originally written in ENGLISH, never mind translated (although Haratischvili is Georgian she writes in German and lives in Germany). I devoured chunks of this each day, the prose is just beautiful, the factual parts delivered concisely and clearly, and the dialogue is lively and vibrant. PERFECTION.
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Needless to say this has shot into my favourites for 2020 - maybe even THE favourite? Who can say. Please read it. We’ve got more time than we could possibly have imagined right now, there’s never been a better time to pick up a chunky book!