The Eight Mountains by Paolo Cognetti Review

Some books strike us with their prose, others with their story or characters, some with the setting. Of “The Eight Mountains” by Paolo Cognetti I was struck by all the details above, but most of all I loved recognizing between the lines a soul similar to mine.

I recognized a mountaineer-writer who put pen to paper the places he loves and set a possible and real story, in which mountains are a character rather than a simple setting.

Paolo Cognetti

The Eight Mountains Plot

Pietro lives in Milan but his parents are from the northeast of Italy and are mountain lovers. After years spent in the city, his parents rent a house in Grana, a village on the slopes of Monte Rosa in the Valle d’Aosta region, Italy. There, Pietro learns about the mountain by trekking a step behind his father, but, above all, he meets Bruno, with whom he establishes a lifelong friendship. The lives of Pietro and Bruno proceed in intertwined but parallel lines. They are different but at the same time similar.

Pietro has parents present, Bruno is left to himself.
Pietro lives in Grana only in the summer, Bruno never wanders out of the valley.
Pietro rebels against what his parents would like for him, Bruno bends his will and represses his own abilities to satisfy his family.
Pietro travels to the ends of the world, Bruno will never move from Grana.

At the heart of everything, the mountains. As real characters, they are presented with all their light and dark sides. They are a place of peace and beauty in stark contrast to the squalid suburbs of Milan. They’re also a physical and mental prison. Salvation and danger. Carefree and duty. They reflect like a mirror of the relationships and the interactions between the characters.

My opinion on The Eight Mountains

It is likely that those who love the mountains will love this novel, which was awarded the Premio Strega in 2017. They will find in it their beloved landscapes and their feelings. The eight mountains, however, is above all a book written by a mountain lover for non-mountain lovers. With an immediate and simple style, he manages to bring the mountain closer even to those who do not know it, yet.

If I compare it to Mauro Corona‘s texts, I find in the latter a true but at the same time “elitist” side of mountains. Mauro reveals his world to readers but, at the same time, he builds an impassable wall between those who were born in the mountains and those who will never be able to really understand it. According to him.
Having said that, it was pleasant to virtually wander in the mountains on the opposite side of northern Italy, so far away from my Friuli. It was nice to find on paper thoughts that I myself do. I liked to hike with Pietro on the heels of his father just as it happened to me as a child.

During a creative writing course, I was told that a story is just as good as its ability to change the reader’s way of seeing reality  (as happens, for example, with Marcel Proust’s Madeleine).

In this case, I loved the concept that everyone has their own altitude in the mountains. That is to say an altitude or an environment in which one feels comfortable. Since I read The Eight Mountains, I have often thought about it, every time I set foot in the mountains. I believe that my comfort zone is changing. Before I only felt safe near mountain huts, now I feel better at higher altitudes and on less-traveled trails as long as there are woods and pastures. Stones still scare me.

I also loved the story of the Eight Mountains that gives the book its title, but this is up to you to discover.
The story however actually ends with a question whose answer can only be found by taking this “adventurous journey in search of reconnection.”


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