Winner of the Strega Prize, Italy’s highest literary honor, this coming-of-age novel about a young man from Milan who spends summers in the Italian Alps muses on the effects of the mountain landscape on one's life and relationships.
Considering its wealth of details and the intimacy of its first-person voice, it’s hard to believe that The Eight Mountains by Paolo Cognetti is a work of fiction and not a memoir ... this isn’t so much a page-turner as a novel that draws you in, gets into your soul and never leaves.
Young Pietro’s initial reflections about life on holiday in the mountains, where he spends his summers, his relationship with his father, and his friendship with Bruno, the cow-herding son of a local stonemason, teeter on the brink of being overly mystical. But The Eight Mountains is written in such arrestingly simple language...that it’s impossible not to be gradually sucked into the peaks and valleys of Pietro’s life ... homespun philosophy – of which there is plenty – is an acquired taste. But there’s something about the vertiginous setting that lends itself to this kind of contemplation. Cognetti captures the elation and melancholy that comes with reaching a spectacular summit, only to realise the minuscule part we play in the panorama of life.
Paolo Cognetti’s novel ... is fluent in the language of mountains, and with his understated, crisp prose, the reader can almost breathe in the thin, alpine air ... Cognetti doesn’t hold to the old writing platitude of 'show, don’t tell,' but instead sets the stage for readers to simply feel. The strange ache of growing up — that floating sensation of trying to figure out who we are and who we’re supposed to be — reverberates throughout ... If the mountains in this book are a masterpiece, the underlying commentary about Europe’s present-day economic struggles and class disparities felt a bit underdeveloped ... The ending has a bittersweet mystery to it, yet I couldn’t help but wonder what would’ve happened if Cognetti has banished his romanticism in favor of letting his characters claw their way out of the dangerous crevasse of ruin toward recovery ... Still, The Eight Mountains reminds us of the power of place, the power of friendship, and the myths that shape our lives.