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The Eight Mountains by Paolo Cognetti
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The Eight Mountains (2016)

by Paolo Cognetti

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Dutch (9)  English (4)  Italian (4)  German (2)  Catalan (2)  All languages (21)
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As a young boy Pietro spends his childhood summers with his mother, in a small village in a secluded valley in the Italian Alps, escaping the city heat of Milan. His father Giovanni, a rather introverted man and a keen mountaineer, joins them for weekends and part of the holiday, always eager to pit himself against the unforgiving mountain terrain. Whenever Pietro joins him on these expeditions Giovanni expects his son to be equally obsessional about “keeping going”, about always taking the uphill route whenever there is a fork in the path. As Pietro is a more reflective character, happy to explore the valleys as well as the mountains, but in a less obsessional way, their relationship is never easy, and Pietro is often relieved when his father returns to the city. He strikes up a friendship with Bruno, the cowherd son of a local stonemason, and the two boys gradually forge a firm friendship, getting to know each other as they explore together the landscape Bruno knows so intimately. As a teenager Pietro begins to avoid the long, arduous climbs with his father and their relationship becomes even more strained, eventually bringing an end to their shared expeditions. However, Bruno continues to accompany Giovanni, often seeming to Pietro to be more like his natural “heir”.
As they grow up, with Bruno never leaving the valley and Pietro’s job taking him to cities across the world, as well as to other mountain ranges, they see each other infrequently but retain a closeness which is important to each of them. This is intensified when Giovanni dies unexpectedly, when Pietro is in early middle-age, and discovering that his father has left him a plot of land, he returns to the mountains for a more extended stay. As he and Bruno build an alpine chalet together and re-explore the mountain walks they did with Giovanni, as well as new ones, the bonds of their friendship are strengthened, and through his friend he gains new and important insights into the person his father was.
This is a powerful and moving coming of age story which captivated me from the very first page. I loved the main character’s gentle, reflective exploration of his troubled, ambivalent relationship with his father, his friendship with Bruno and his struggles to find a direction and purpose in life. Bruno too is struggling, not only with trying to make his farm financially viable but also with his failing marriage. The author very powerfully evoked the contrasts between the hardships and poverty endured by people who live and work in the mountains, the hazards of the terrain as well as the beauty of the landscape. This meant that I always felt conscious of the fact that, although beautiful, this could be an unforgiving environment.
I found that each of the characters was well-developed and convincing, so I felt that I got to know them well and to care about what happened to them. The exploration of male friendship and, more generally, how friendships survive frequent absences, was central to the story’s development and added a rich dimension to the relationship between the main characters. Love, loss, regret, reparation, hope, resignation and disappointment were all themes which ran throughout the story, lending a convincing credibility to the development of each of the characters. Despite the intense emotions which underlay Pietro’s reflections, there was no mawkish sentimentality in the story-telling, something which increased the impact it had on me.
Paolo Cognetti captures not only the stunningly beautiful landscape of the mountains and valleys, and the variety of flora and fauna to be found there, but also the domestic landscape of home, both urban and rural. Using breathtakingly exquisite language, his descriptions were so evocative, that I felt I was experiencing the sights, sounds and smells he was describing; these were not just a background to the story-telling, but were central to it. His deep-seated love of the mountains was clear in every sentence and, as I too fell in love with mountains when I was a young teenager, a love which has grown ever deeper over the decades, this was something with which I could viscerally identify.
I found this an outstanding, unforgettable story. When I had read the final sentence, I wanted to go back to the beginning to immerse myself again in its beautiful, sensual language and thought-provoking themes – I just wish I could give it more than a 5* rating! ( )
  linda.a. | Nov 21, 2018 |
A beautiful, contemplative toned novel, about the relationships between father's and sons, and the friendship between two very different boys. Piedro is even when his family takes a holiday cottage at the foot of Italy's Grand Rosa Mountain. His father has a love of mountains, their paths, hiking through different passages and seeing what he can find, experiencing nature. An experience Piedro does not cherish as much as his father, which will eventually become a fissure in their relationship. Piedro meets Bruno, a boy who herds cows, his mother a true mountain woman, s father with whom he will have his own difficulties.

So many books about mother, daughter relationships, female friendships, it was a welcome relief to come upon a book that featured male relationships. Gorgeous and lengthy descriptions of mountains, touching scenes between friends as they grow older and try to find x new way to define their friendship. Bruno, staying put in the mountains he has made his home, and Piedro, who wants to explore other areas, do different things. The fracture between both fathers and sons and the reason for these. A touching, quiet book, but one that quietly weaved its way into my heart.

ARC from Edelweiss. ( )
  Beamis12 | Apr 1, 2018 |
Mountains exert a powerful fascination on the modern mind. They offer freedom, escape, wilderness, the shrugging-off of civilisation. They promise an elemental battle between humanity and nature. And they hold out the prospect of possession: peaks to be claimed and conquered. In this restrained and elegant novel, Paolo Cognetti tells the story of Pietro, a young boy from Milan whose life will be shaped by a childhood friendship formed in the high valleys of the Italian Alps. A tale of obsession, of fathers and sons, of friendship and of belonging, this is a poignant glimpse of a fading world...

For the full review, please see my blog:
https://theidlewoman.net/2017/12/22/the-eight-mountains-paolo-cognetti/ ( )
  TheIdleWoman | Dec 22, 2017 |
An easy reading story, but a very nice story. On friendship, on growing up, on being an adult and not responding to the predefined lifepaths for adults, on supporting each other. Or .... on all other things that go completely .....
Read it, get embraced by the warmth, go along on the way of the eight mountains. ( )
  Lunarreader | Dec 8, 2017 |
Showing 4 of 4
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Paolo Cognettiprimary authorall editionscalculated
Boeke, YondTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Burkhardt, ChristianeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Emitslöf, MalinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krone, PattyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Watz, TommyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Mijn vader had in de bergen zo zijn eigen manier van wandelen.
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«E cosa fa?» chiesi, anche se in realtà volevo chiedere: e come sta? Si ricorda di me? In tutti questi anni mi ha pensato quanto l'ho pensato io? Ma ormai avevo imparato a fare le domande degli adulti, in cui si chiede una cosa per saperne un'altra.
Stavo imparando che cosa succede a uno che va via: che gli altri continuano a vivere senza di lui.
Non avevano soldi per comprarsi niente. Ma nessuno ne aveva, disse mia madre, tra chi andava in montagna a quei tempi: le Alpi erano l'avventura dei poveri, il Polo Nord e l'Oceano Pacifico di ragazzi come loro.
Un uomo con due baffi bianchi mi raccontò che per lui era un modo di ripensare alla sua vita. Era come se, attaccando lo stesso vecchio sentiero una volta all'anno, si addentrasse tra i ricordi e risalisse il corso della propria memoria. … «Eh già, non c'è niente come la montagna per ricordare».
«Tornato quassù dopo tanto tempo. Sarebbe bello restarci tutti insieme, senza vedere più nessuno, senza dover più scendere a valle».
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"For fans of Elena Ferrante, Fredrik Backman, and Paulo Coelho comes the international sensation about the friendship between two young Italian boys from different backgrounds and how their incredibly strong connection evolves, changes, and challenges them throughout their lives. Pietro is a lonely boy living in Milan. With his parents becoming more distant each day, the only thing the family shares is their love for the Dolomites, the mountains that hug the northeastern border of Italy. While on vacation at the foot of the mountains, Pietro meets Bruno, an adventurous, spirited local boy. Together they spend many summers exploring the mountain's meadows and peaks and discover the similarities and differences in their lives, their backgrounds, and their futures. The two boys come to find the true meaning of friendship and camaraderie, even as their divergent paths in life-- Bruno's in the mountains, Pietro's in cosmopolitan cities across the world--test the strength and meaning of their connection. A modern Italian masterpiece, The Eight Mountains is a lyrical coming-of-age story about the power of male friendships and the enduring bond between fathers and sons. "There are no more universal themes than those of the landscape, friendship, and becoming adults, and Cognetti's writing becomes classical (and elegant) to best tell this story"--… (more)

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