I am so happy I can finally recommend you one of my most favorite Italian books!
What was stopping me from doing so? well, I was waiting for it to be translated into English and now it’s finally done. So now I can tell you everything about one of the best books I have read lately: The Eight Mountains by Paolo Cognetti.
Paolo Cognetti is one of the most talented young Italian contemporary authors. Actually, he is not that young but his success is quite new. He began writing in 2003 and has published quite a few short stories since then. His most famous collections of short stories are: Manuale per ragazze di successo, Una cosa piccola che sta per esplodere, and Sofia si veste sempre di nero.
He also wrote some non-fiction works, which combine two of his big passions: New York and the mountains (I love how these two interests have nothing to do with each other). His non-fiction works about New York are New York è una finestra senza tende and Tutte le mie preghiere guardano verso Ovest, while he wrote about his love for the mountains in Un ragazzo selvatico.
Despite this significant body of work, until last year Paolo Cognetti was still a little unknown to the big public. Then, in 2016 he published his first novel, Le otto montagne, which immediately gained success and interest, leading to the victory of the Strega Prize – the most prestigious literary prize in Italy – which made Cognetti a very famous writer.
I have been a fan of Paolo Cognetti since the very beginning and I am really proud that his work is now known to the wider public, Moreover, Le otto montagne has been sold in 30 different countries, meaning that he will soon be quite famous abroad too and I couldn’t be happier!
When the novel was published, two years ago, I immediately bought it, read it straight away and loved it.
The thing I like the most of Paolo Cognetti, a quality that was clear in its previous works as well, is the discretion and decency with which he describes human feelings. Lots of things happen in this novel and the characters experience different emotions but all of them are treated with carefulness and compassion and it is something I truly admire. It is as if the writer is really respectful of the emotions of his characters.
Speaking of the plot, the book tells the story of Pietro, a kid from Milan who spends his summer holidays in the mountains and there he makes friends with Bruno, a kid who lives in the tiny mountain village Pietro visits every year. The two boys are quite different but their friendship grows strong over the years, summer after summer.
Life takes them on different paths and they make different choices for their future – Bruno stays in that small village all his life while Pietro travels the world – but the bond between them doesn’t untie. Somehow, no matter how far apart they are, and even if they go through some ups and downs in their friendship, they keep a strong emotional relationship.
The book tells the story of a friendship but is also focused on Pietro’s family and the relationship between the boy and its parents. In this way, the novel is about the coming of age of a boy and the events and choices that make him become a man. It is the story of a friendship, as I said, but also it is a story of an absence, of the difficulty of communicating and showing emotions,
There is actually another very important character, besides the human ones, and it is the mountains. The scenery is always present and plays a very important role in the book. As I said, the focus is on relationships but such relationships are not only those between the characters but also the ones between each character and the mountains: each person has its own personal way of living, loving and interacting with this natural environment.
I won’t say much more about the book because I do not want to spoil anything about the story. Let me only recommend it to you if you are interested in powerful stories where the emotions are more important than the plot itself.
By the way, have you read some good books recently? Let me know!!!
If you are interested in learning more about Italian culture and lifestyle, I’d suggest you jump on my digital Vespa and join Be Italian For A Month, your 30-day virtual journey to Italy.
You will also learn some Italian words, you’ll receive some typical Italian recipes – ready to be cooked and enjoyed, you’ll get to tour around Italy, and learn about Italian traditions, proverbs, stereotypes, you name it. Plus, some cute surprises along the way!