The Eighth Life

Scribe. Apr. 2020. 994p. ISBN 9781950354146. $28.
Born in the former Soviet republic of Georgia and now living in Hamburg, multi-award-winning novelist, playwright, and theater director Haratischvili wrote this work in German, though she also writes in Georgian. Her massive opus traces the lives of many characters from their origins in Georgia through the tumultuous years of the 20th century. The novel is divided into seven parts, each named for a major character, and we eagerly follow these individuals—several from the same family—through the upheavals of the Russian Revolution, the rise of Stalin in the Soviet era, and the horrors of World War II and its aftermath. Affectingly, narrator Niza, the main character of Part 7, relates the entire story to her absent young niece, Brillka, who’s left home to make a life for herself in Vienna. A central feature of this engrossing account is a secret recipe for hot chocolate handed down to Stasia (Part 1) by her father, a concoction so delectable as to be hypnotic.
VERDICT If it’s a family saga you’re seeking, look no further than this grand tale, ably translated by Collins and Martin. The author gracefully interweaves the historical backdrop of her novel with the lives of her characters, thus adding depth to her story. Heartily recommended.

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