I read the proof in a state of intoxication last September. I reviewed it for The German Riveter in November. Haratischvili’s epic of the Georgian 20th century became My Book of 2019. This you know.

What you don’t know is that ever since I have been debating with myself about its inclusion in my all time top 10. To decide that I would have to reread. When the publisher announced a readalong through April and May, paced at a manageable 50 pages a day with discussion questions, I jumped at the chance, treated myself to a beautiful new copy and dived right back in.

I knew I had a lot more to say than the 500 words allowed in my German Riveter review, and so set up a discussion thread in the Read German Books in 2020 Goodreads group, where for 3 glorious weeks I shared detailed thoughts with a group of readers, who were as enthusiastic as myself. This was the result …

If there are flaws, a close reading will discover them. So what did we find. A couple of implausibilities. I’m not talking about magical realism elements, just plot twists that seemed a little too convenient.

What surprised me most was how much more emotional I was during the second reading, despite knowing what was coming. The characters had stayed with me since the first reading and perhaps knowing what was lay ahead contributed to my heightened emotional response to the tragedies that befell them. And that it seems that is what I value in literature. In addition to technical control, character development, patterns, mirroring, circular structures and drama of course! All of which The Eighth Life has in spades, But to love a novel, to really, really love a novel, I need a gut response, and so, when I literally sobbed with relief at a potential happy ending, Haratischvili’s place in my all time top 10 was assured.

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