The protagonist of Ti Amo is a woman who is in a deep and real, but relatively new relationship with a man from Milan. She has moved there, they have married, and they are close in every way. Then he is diagnosed with cancer. It’s serious, but they try to go about their lives as best they can. But when the doctor tells the woman that her husband has less than a year to live – without telling the husband – death comes between them. She knows it’s coming, but he doesn’t – and he doesn’t seem to want to know.
Ti Amo is an incredibly beautiful and harrowing novel, filled with tenderness and grief, love and loneliness. It delves into the complex emotions of bereavement, and in less than 100 pages manages to encapsulate an extraordinary scope and depth, asking how and for whom we can live, when the one we love best is about to die.Read an Excerpt
- The audiobook of Ti Amo is available from Spiracle. You can find out more about indie audio publishers Spiracle in our Q&A with them here.
- You can see Hanne Ørstavik talking to Rachel Genn (author of What You Could Have Won) about her novel Love, on our YouTube channel.
- Hanne Ørstavik and translator Martin Aitken discuss writing, reading and translation on Literary Hub, here.
‘From the very first page, the first sentence, there’s this honesty of voice. A voice weighted with dread and waiting but also shaky with love and wonder. The novel is described on the back as “very hard and very beautiful.” It is very hard. But, somehow, without this being in any way tritely or easily achieved, it is also very beautiful. A magnificent translation of a life-companion of a book.’
‘This novella, sometimes hard to read for its bleakness but impossible to look away from, shows that even when we know the destination, the journey is still worthwhile.’
Wall Street Journal
‘What is so impressive is her ability to capture – with precision, candour and, indeed, tenacity – her shifting sense of self, as the foundations on which it rests crumble with every passing moment.’
‘The most skilful of writers…you need this Norwegian writer on your bookshelf.’
‘Ti Amo is a complex look at grief, love and loneliness, longing, not veiled within a wider narrative or hidden under layers.’
‘Tender, anguished and truthful, Ti Amo recalls a line from a novel by Duras I read years ago: “There are no holidays from love” – as most of us discover, sooner or later.’
Kirkus Reviews, starred review
‘The novel shares a compassionate vision, bridging the gulf between the one who will go on and the one who will not ... A remarkably frank and finely sieved account of two people approaching the ultimate parting of the ways.’
‘What do we really talk about when we talk about “truth” in literature? Ørstavik’s painful book on grief provides rich answers. Thoughtful and – even for her – enormously raw, Ørstavik accomplishes an astonishing amount in very few pages.’
‘An exceptionally good novel about grieving and waiting . . . Ørstavik writes so well that the book feels essential, timeless and universal.’
‘Ørstavik writes mercilessly and beautifully about losing her husband. This little novel is a heart-breaking gem. Ti Amo is an endlessly sorrowful novel, but it's written with such forceful presence, a kind of wonder and tenderness towards life and a celebration of love, that you can’t help but feel enriched by reading it. It’s very hard and very beautiful.’
‘One of the most powerful things about the book is its description of the process of losing someone to illness. The time it takes. That it’s possible to feel bereaved even before death arrives . . . It’s exhausting reading, breathless in its resignation . . . And then, midway through the book, there is a turning point. This is where the book really grabbed me, catching me off guard, brilliantly. Without revealing too much, I will say that it’s one of life’s ambushes deep down in the valley of death, equal parts dream and taboo, possible and impossible, an incident that gives grief a nuance it can probably only have for those who have stared into its eyes long enough.’
Klassekampen, Best of 2020
‘This little novel from Ørstavik opens up spaces full of emotion and wise thoughts about life, love and death. All we can do is say thank you, and enter.’
Adresseavisen, #1 on the Best of 2020 list
‘Hanne Ørstavik has written perhaps her finest novel about her life’s greatest loss.’
Vårt Land, Best of 2020
‘With Ti Amo, Hanne Ørstavik rediscovers the intensity and presence of her first novel Love. Ti Amo explores the liminal experiences that a novel can contain. At the same time we see her oeuvre from a new perspective. It’s a powerful novel about loving, and her best in a long time.’
Adresseavisen, 6/6 stars
‘A tender novel about losing your closest one to cancer. Perceptive, thoughtful and brilliantly written . . . [Ørstavik’s] novels are characterised by her use of language and words to create identity. She has never done it as successfully and satisfyingly as now . . . above all it’s a beautiful novel. About love in a real sense.’
‘What is true? What is real? How do you get inside another human being? These questions have been central throughout Hanne Ørstavik’s work. In her latest novel, Ti Amo, in a story which is her own, she takes these questions to another level . . . Ørstavik has an impressive ability to expose a person’s inner world, to find a way in to where it hurts the most and explore complex experiences in simple prose, without everything falling apart.’
Praise for Hanne Ørstavik's Love‘Perfectly poised . . . Ørstavik builds a cinematic sense of dread out of the plainest prose, phrase layered on phrase with the hushed implacability of falling snow.’ Justine Jordan, The Guardian ‘Ørstavik's mastery of perspective and clean, crackling sentences prevent sentimentality or sensationalism from trailing this story of a woman and her accidentally untended child. Both of them long for love, but the desire lines of the book are beautifully crooked. Jon wants his mother, and to be let in out of the cold . . . the cold that seems a character throughout this excellent novel of near misses.’ Claire Vaye Watkins, New York Times ‘Hanne Ørstavik’s utterly memorable, devastating little book was first published in Norway in 1997. Available in English for the first time, in Martin Aitken’s admirably clear translation, it might as well have been written yesterday: it has been preserved in fabular ice. The writing is beautifully precise and packed with meaning.’ Toby Lichtig, Times Literary Supplement ‘An achingly sad, unsentimental story . . . For a short novel that spans only a few hours in time . . . Ørstavik brings us remarkably close to both her characters, shifting effortlessly between them in stark, lucid prose.’ Sarah Gilmartin, Irish Times ‘[A] haunting masterpiece . . . The deceptively simple novel is slow-burning, placing each character into situations associated with horror – entering an unfamiliar house, accepting a ride from a stranger—and the result is a magnificent tale.’ Publishers Weekly, starred review ‘Love can change everything. And it does in this edgy, elegiac and beautifully written novel . . . What you think will happen doesn't – and what does breaks your heart.’ Kerri Arsenault, Oprah.com ‘Love does not disappoint. I was immediately lost to it, hooked within two pages, and already anxious about what was in store for the two convincingly drawn leads . . . If you can pull yourself away from this evocative, affecting and expertly woven tale before you find out what happens, you’re made of tougher stuff than me.’ Jane Graham, Big Issue ‘I was transported . . . the interior lives of both characters are so delicately expressed, with such a light hand, and this huge, powerful emotional impact.’ Ellah Watakama Allfrey ‘I thought [the characters] were drawn absolutely beautifully.’ Christopher Frayling ‘An extraordinary novel.’ Kathryn Hughes ‘Ørstavik’s writing is shrapnel sharp as she carves out a nuanced portrait of queasy love told through slithers that is eerie in its estrangement and quietly devastating in its loneliness.’ Katie Goh, The Skinny