Tag Archives: Review

Follow Your Heart – Susanna Tamaro

14 Sep

“Be still and listen in silence to your heart. When it has spoken to you, rise up and follow it”, thus ends Susanna Tamaro’s international bestselling novel Follow Your Heart. Translated into eighteen languages, this is an epistolary novel in which an elderly Italian lady, fearing her imminent end, writes to her granddaughter in America. Alternating between diary and memoire, the old lady recounts her past to her only remaining living relative. Understanding that this will be the last communication that she has with her granddaughter, the old lady tells her story in the hope of being understood, and, in some way, forgiven, by her young descendant.

In Follow Your Heart, the protagonist tells her family’s story and explains the way in which her relatives, as well as contemporary Italian tradition, played a role in the formation of her character and her fate. She often gives wise reflections on life, as if ensuring to pass on to her granddaughter everything that she has learnt over the years: “Life is not a race but an archery contest. Saving time counts for nothing; what matters is to hit the bull’s-eye”. As we learn more about the old lady’s life through her honest narrative, we learn that most of her life’s tragedies arose from miscommunication and the fear to listen to one’s instinct over custom or duty.

Through this novel, Tamaro creates a fable whose philosophical lessons will stay with us long after we have finished the book. Tamaro captures a universal human essence in her writing, which is evident in the way that the protagonist’s many moral and metaphysical battles remind us of our own. However, having chosen the epistolary form, Tamaro sacrificed the ability to describe the old lady’s past life with more detail, and thus, more emotion. The only moments when we truly sympathise for the old lady and understand her fragile state is during the descriptive passages that capture her present lonely life in an empty winter home. As well as lacking in emotion, the narrative also suffers from a plot that is unable to provide any life lessons without the old lady’s regular words of wisdom.

Follow Your Heart is a novel that will provoke each reader to contemplate his or her own experiences. However, for me this book will remain no more than a source of wise quotes, a story that touched my mind, rather than my heart.

 

For information about Susanna Tamaro’s other work, click here.
For Susanna Tamaro’s biography on Wikipedia, click here.