A Whole Life – Robert Seethaler (Book Review)

I picked this up in Waterstones when looking for shorter books to read. It had a review beside it by a member of staff, and other reviews reinforced my choice to buy it:

Andreas Egger knows every path and peak in his mountain valley, the source of his sustenance, his livelihood – his home.

Set in the mid-twentieth century and told with beauty and tenderness, his story is one of man’s relationship with an ancient landscape, of the value of solitude, the arrival of the modern world, and above all, of the moments, great and small, that make us who we are.

Firstly, this book is very well written – the occasional humour throughout was genuinely very clever, but the sadder times of Egger’s life felt disturbingly real to the point of sympathy for a fictional character. The book essentially follows the whole of Egger’s life in about 150 pages, and it is full of the ups-and-downs as in all lives.

From childhood, to work-life, to marriage, to war – the book is diverse in it’s content. If you are a fan of Stoner by John Williams, you will like this too. The atmosphere of this book was very real, and though not necessarily always the type of book I’d lean towards, I was engrossed throughout.

The book is a translation of Robert Seethaler’s original which took Germany by storm – reaching the top 10 shortly after being published.

The change in the quiet mountain valley as modern life enters in is quite melancholy, and leads to a lot of reflection on the change tourism has had on places whose beauty was once exclusive to those who lived there, and who also often never left.

If you can get a copy, I recommend giving it a go. It’s not long, after all, and is really very good.


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