intense sensations

I no longer fear death

Posted on: June 14, 2015

Hollow HeartHollow Heart by Viola Di Grado
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I hope I never meet Viola Di Grado. Her latest novel, The Hollow Heart, has the authentic ring of autobiography. Pure imagination is incapable of inventing something this assured, this intense and vivid. It must be drawn from life.

And what a sick, doom-laden, psychotic life it is! The narrator, Dorotea Giglio, is a sensitive soul, quirky, morbid, self-obsessed and glum. But the most disconcerting thing about Dorothea is the fact that she is dead.

She is dead from the first sentence. She remains dead until the last.

You might wonder if there can be a plot in a novel when the main character, who is also the narrator, is dead throughout.

Well, let me assure you, this novel holds quite a few surprises. There is more than just a back story. Things happen to Dorotea after she dies.

First, things happen physically to her corpse. We are not spared the details. If you are squeamish you can skip the bits in italics but I don’t recommend this. The close-up scrutiny of her putrefying corpse is intrinsic to Dorotea’s story.

For although Dorotea has a scientific interest in bodily decay, she discovers there is more to death than this. There is spiritual change too. There is growth.

There is also an awful, chilling moment towards the end of the novel when you think something truly shocking and unforgivable is about to happen. I had my still pumping heart in my mouth.

I won’t spoil one of the best moments in the novel by telling you more about it. Suffice to say that Dorotea likes to tease.

She is playful with language too. “I died of optimism,” she laments. “I thought my suffering would end after I died.”

Suffering is only part of the process. Through suffering comes revelation. After revelation, something else. I’m not sure what to call it. Perhaps you could call it redemption but that sounds inappropriately religious. The novel is too subversive to fit into the tradition of religious doctrine suggested by the themes of suffering, revelation and redemption. It is a meditation on death that becomes a celebration of life. It celebrates, above all, a life rooted in the senses and expressed in words. Life holds possibilities the dead can only envy.

Because of this, the dead need psychiatric help. Your help.

As a disembodied ghost, Dorotea loses the ability to read. She can see the words on the page but she can no longer decipher their meaning. She can, however, write, and in writing she hopes to be rescued — rescued by you, the reader.

If that seems paradoxical, a greater paradox was that in reading her words I found myself rescued by Dorotea.

Yes, I think the word rescued is not too strong to describe what happened to me. It happened on a subconscious level. I didn’t realise the connection at first. But towards the end of the novel, having put it away in my bag and finished with it for the morning, I received a text from a friend whose father had just died. I didn’t know her father well but I suddenly had a strong conviction that I wanted to go to the funeral. Normally I avoid funerals. But this time I felt an irresistible compulsion to bond with my friend and pay respects to her father. What can I say? It was an epiphany. I felt different, very different inside.

It wasn’t until the next day when I pulled The Hollow Heart out of my bag again and found where I’d left off, that I realised that Dorotea had changed my attitude to the dead.

I am not going to attempt to put this feeling into words. I cannot begin to come near Viola Di Grado’s proficiency with language. I will just say that it was her words that brought about this change in me.

I no longer fear death. In fact I want to make friends with the dead. I long to embrace Dorotea as a sister.

Alas, I can’t say the same about Viola Di Grado. A writer this powerful is scary. I really hope to God I never meet her.


13 Responses to "I no longer fear death"

Reblogged this on georgeforfun.

Live life to the fullest but don’t underestimate death. 🙂

Indeed life is for living, not just surviving or existing. To me, not living life to the fullest is considered Death, to my existence and soul.
Wishing you a wonderful day and rest of this week. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

After living many years in many countries, I’ve learned to take nothing for granted and realized how little I control in reality. It takes a lot of stress and worry away and allows for living life to the fullest. My only regret is that it took so long to learn to stop often and enjoy whatever life and love have to offer.
I took time to read some of the samples of your work from your site. You have a new reader who appreciates not only your talent, but all the hard work you put into your craft. I am impressed and look forward to reading more of your work. I just hope I can slow down and savor each piece to the fullest, also so I don’t run out of material until you publish your next one. Reading too fast isn’t always a gift, but a curse. TY again for sharing yourself and your work. You are totally spot on about Amsterdam, hard to shock the natives anymore, especially in the areas of Sex and Drugs. One of many PSAs I passed onto my children while they were growing up in Europe. Unchecked curiosity sometimes leads to danger. Better prepared than not.
TY again for making vivid images come alive with your talented words.
❤ (๑̀ ͜ʖ๑́) <3.

Oh yes, please slow down! Like you, I believe in living life. I also like to put a lot of myself into my writing, which is very draining. Now I am living a bit more life and doing a bit less writing. Reading Viola and others like her is very life-giving but writing for publication can be very life-taking so I don’t know when my next story or novella will appear.

I can feel how much you put into your writing, that’s one reason you are such a good writer, IMHO. You entice your readers to want to know more and more as they continue to read. I must say I couldn’t wait to read more as soon as I finished your samples, but I also wanted to savor every word and leave time for the images that your words created to come to full visualization. Sometimes I just read to distract me from something else. I make sure I have enough time to finish your story before I sit down, so I can thoroughly enjoy and not miss a single word. Thank you for writing such hypnotic and magnetic stories. Don’t let anyone or anything rush you into mass producing more words than what flows naturally from your mind and soul. I cannot imagine the time, concentration, and work that goes into your writing process, but I do appreciate and enjoy every bit. Thank you. I have a house filled with 4 Adults, 7 children (not my own ;<))), 2 sets of Twin Grands(18mos), Twin Nieces(3), and a Nephew(9). Sometimes I must slow down out of necessity, indeed, just to be able to keep up.
;<))) Wishing you a wonderful day. One of my Goddaughters is Chinese and another is Chinese/American. They are still young, but I see their drive, dedication, and full involvement in everything they do, especially when I play board games with them. They love competing with Uncle George and enjoy beating me at chess that much more. That'll teach me to suggest they learn the game. I have learned to accept defeat graciously, and nowadays OFTEN. ))))))))))))
Wishing you a wonderful day and rest of the week.

TY so much for the retweet on Twitter. Most appreciated.

I love to retweet!

When I first started on Twitter, I wasn’t sure what to say, but figured out later that I loved sharing the quips and Tweets of others and then I migrated over to Tumblr and WP to start posting longer pieces and opinions and sometimes just stories of my past, embarrassing and otherwise. I learned to laugh at myself early in life, ensured no one was a better or closer critic. Humor helped me deal with tragedy and loss or I’d be a real Nut case instead of only somewhat of one. Hope your weekend was great and the new week will be Wunnerful for you, dear Vanessa.

“I no longer fear death.”


Well, that’s a decent thing.

“I cannot begin to come near Viola Di Grado’s proficiency with language.”

Heh…modest lady. I have said before that you are one of the crispest writers I’ve ever read.

FWIW, I’m a retired cop, so death was an every day occurrence, or every second day. Yer regular, non dramatic death. Never bothered me much unless it was kids.

Always go to funerals it is both a mark of respect for the departed and a sign to the bereaved how popular their loved ones remain.


Thank you, Brendan. I like to think I can be as crisp as a seaweed cracker. But Viola is as deep as the ocean, far deeper than any grave.

Loved this! Will put it on my TBR (and shopping) list. Miss your blogging 😦
Guilie @ Quiet Laughter

A sad face! Oh no! How can the author of Quiet Laughter ever have a sad face? Have you read any Elena Ferrante? I have been recommended to read her books, which are supposed to be all the rage with discerning cognoscenti. I love her without reading her if only for the fact that she has successfully shunned public attention and kept her true identity concealed. Without resorting to a black silk blindfold. Clever.

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