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Heaven and Earth Reviews

Heaven and Earth by Paolo Giordano

Heaven and Earth

Paolo Giordano

Score pending

2 reviews

Imprint: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
Publication date: 11 Jun 2020
ISBN: 9781474612142

An epic love story that spans twenty years and half the globe, from Puglia to a frozen cave in Iceland.

4 stars out of 5
23 Jun 2020

"a highly enjoyable novel, convincingly and smoothly translated by Anne Milano Appel"

Heaven and Earth (Divorare il cielo, 2018) is a highly enjoyable novel, convincingly and smoothly translated by Anne Milano Appel. Spanning twenty years and the anguished love affair between Teresa and Bern, some of it takes place in the dark recent days when Puglia’s olive trees were attacked by a beetle that reduced the landscape to an apocalyptic vision of the planet’s end. Giordano is especially good on the textures, smells, heat and colours of the Italian south, where almost the whole novel is set, the herbs that scent the air, the rocky terrain on which little grows. These stay long in the mind, as does the way he writes about the obsessiveness of love, the way it dominates and distorts and the self-delusions and fantasies it gives rise to. Puglia’s scorched earth and, later in the novel, the craters and caverns of Iceland become metaphors for a plot that is both touching and sad, violent and uncomfortable.

Reviews

5 stars out of 5
Frances Cairncross
7 Jun 2020

"a devastating marvel of a novel"

The plot is deftly handled, moving from a secretive steamy teenage romance in Speziale to a cave in Iceland – taking in fringe eco-activism and a doomed attempt to conceive a child along the way. What links them, aside from the dreamy lyricism of the prose (“the foam-slick rocks, the silent sea, and, all around, the mercilessly bright night of the South”) is Bern’s tortured grappling with his faith. Muddying Teresa’s understanding of Bern and his demons is the doubt, first raised by her grandmother, that you can ever truly know another person. Teresa, on hearing Tommaso’s account, realises that their experiences coexist: “Not one story, but two, I kept telling myself, both real… Two versions like the opposite edges of a box, impossible to see together, except with the imagination.” Bern is a different man to each of the friends, his heart “a convoluted rabbit warren, full of tortuous burrows, one for each of us”.