Book Review: “A Whole Life” by Robert Seethaler

The first book recommended to me by the staff at Waterstones:


A Whole Life

by Robert Seethaler


Neither the economy of language nor the physical coldness of the landscape do anything to dampen the warmth of feeling woven throughout this short novel – both bitter and sweet.

There is a frankness and plainness to the words that creates a world without over-filling it. You feel that every word is necessary. It is ungarnished. The infrequent dialogue is made the more potent by its scarcity and blunt truthfulness. You feel as if these are memories hewn by time to their most composite form; memories whose accuracy encompasses all that is needed, all that is most affective. Our guide, Egger, is a man of fortitude and quiet strength. His many trials, though tragic, are without the solipsism of tragedy.

“But each time the rumbling died away and the clear cries of the jackdaws could be heard again.”

He limps through life as best he can, and his quiet, persistent trudging is honourable and life-affirming. An unstudied lesson in philosophy; gently shown, not taught. We are blown through his snowy valley as quiet observers. In Egger’s solitude, we are not made to feel like intruders, but rather to join with the quiet breath of the mountains that are his constant companions. And for our silent companionship, his unimposing wisdom is our gift.

“A Whole Life,” in less than 150 pages. As you read, the sense of empathy settles quietly within, without your noticing and Egger, though often a stranger within his own story, is not a stranger to you for long.


Alphabetty Spaghetty Review of The Tobacconist by Robert Seethaler



7 thoughts on “Book Review: “A Whole Life” by Robert Seethaler

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  7. Reblogged this on Alphabetty Spaghetty and commented:

    Just filled in an application that asked me to tell them about a favourite book and, having finished said application, I now feel the urgent need to remind everyone about this book!

    “A Whole Life” by Robert Seethaler is one of the best things I read last year and it has stayed with me ever since. It’s less than 150 pages long but manages to express the life of one man so entirely and perfectly that you cannot believe how much it touches your heart in so few pages. Seethaler has a beautifully stark style which creates a sense of place, purpose and humanity without the slightest hint of artifice. You can hear the wind blowing through the mountains and feel each deliberate footfall on the landscape. It is almost philosophical. But it never tries to teach you anything, never argues its point. Stoic and warm; penitent and matter-of-fact. A delicately woven tribute to what man can be.

    Writing this has made me want to go and read it again! It’s so short that you can read it in a matter of hours. There’s no reason not to take a leap of faith and read it because, even if you decide you didn’t like it (we can argue about that later), you’ve only lost a few hours of your time… but you will love it. Because it is beautiful and life-affirming and humble and I will stop talking now… just go read it.


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