Andreas lives his whole life in the Austrian Alps, where he arrives as a young boy taken in by a farming family. He is a man of very few words and so, when he falls in love with Marie, he doesn't ask for her hand in marriage, but instead has some of his friends light her name at dusk across the mountain. When Marie dies in an avalanche, pregnant with their first child, Andreas' heart is broken. He leaves his valley just once more, to fight in WWII - where he is taken prisoner in the Caucasus – and returns to find that modernity has reached his remote haven . . .
Like John Williams' Stoner or Denis Johnson's Train Dreams, A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler is a tender book about finding dignity and beauty in solitude. An exquisite novel about a simple life, it has already demonstrated its power to move thousands of readers with a message of solace and truth. It looks at the moments, big and small, that make us what we are.
Robert Seethaler's quietly mesmerizing novel - elemental in both tone and subject - shows what joy and nobility can be found in a life of hardship, patience and bereavement. It is at once heart-rending and heart-warming. A Whole Life, for all its gentleness, is a very powerful book.
Against the backdrop of a literary world that often seems crowded with novels yelling "Look at me!", it's refreshing to read a story marked by quiet, concentrated attention . . . Seethaler's scenes of mountain life are realised with spare, almost surreally vivid images. But what is perhaps most remarkable about this remarkable novel is the way that it continually weaves past, present and future into a single fabric.
Adam Lively - Sunday Times