The Eighth Life (Hardcover)
The Eighth Life is a sweeping tale about (mostly) 3 things: a family, a country, and a chocolate recipe. We are introduced to the family at the start of the Russian Revolution, with matriarch Stasia entering into a promising but ultimately disappointing marriage to a Red Soldier. Through her eyes, we see the transformation of her home country of Georgia, and the broader region, under the cruel communist regime. Stasia’s father, a renowned chocolatier under the old regime, passed along his highly secretive and highly addictive hot chocolate recipe to his daughter upon her marriage, making her swear to only make it under the strictest discretion. Throughout the book, the hot chocolate’s uplifting yet addictive powers provide comfort and healing to some, and despair and ruin to others. Considering this book is over 900 pages long, the chocolate recipe acts as a poignant reminder that the past is never as far away as we think.
This book was originally written in German, but the English translation has lost none of Haratischvili’s dryly poetic style, which reminds me of authors like Sylvia Plath and F. Scott Fitzgerald, both quaintly antiquated and yet strangely timeless. You may find this book to be a timely reminder that when the world outside is falling apart, somehow, life goes on.
An epic family saga beginning with the Russian Revolution and swirling across a century, encompassing war, loss, love requited and unrequited, ghosts, joy, massacres, tragedy. And hot chocolate.
At the start of the twentieth century, on the edge of the Russian empire, a family prospers. It owes its success to a delicious chocolate recipe, passed down the generations with great solemnity and caution. A caution which is justified: this is a recipe for ecstasy that carries a very bitter aftertaste...
Stasia learns it from her Georgian father and takes it north, following her new husband, Simon, to his posting at the center of the Russian Revolution in St Petersburg. Stasia's is only the first in a symphony of grand but all too often doomed romances that swirl from sweet to sour in this epic tale of the red century.
Tumbling down the years, and across vast expanses of longing and loss, generation after generation of this compelling family hears echoes and sees reflections. A ballet dancer never makes it to Paris and a singer pines for Vienna. Great characters and greater relationships come and go and come again; the world shakes, and shakes some more, and the reader rejoices to have found at last one of those glorious old books in which you can live and learn, be lost and found, and make indelible new friends.