A lovely and oh-so-tender coming-of-age story about a teenager who encounters his true soulmate very early in life and must, as a result, handle intense and complex adult emotions, perhaps before he’s fully ready. And it feels like a novel written by someone who has known a love much more intimate than many of us ever experience. Awarded four stars on Goodreads.
17-year-old Elio, living in a small town in Northern Italy, is accustomed to his professor-father hiring a different assistant each summer, to live with the family in exchange for help organizing academic work. In 1983, however, the assistant who arrives is Oliver, 7 years Elio’s senior and just beginning a promising academic career of his own.
The book is narrated by Elio and so the author gets to slowly reveal — with beauty, tenderness, depth, and authenticity — all the uncertainties, insecurities, hopes, and fears that occupy Elio’s mind as he navigates first love. There is so much universal truth in Andre Aciman’s descriptions, that you are certain to recognize in Elio’s psychological musings something from your own experiences.
Aciman takes you deep into Elio’s soul and you will know him intimately. There is SUCH exquisite detail about his passage through each painful stage: initial attraction, intense infatuation, obsessive fantasizing, wild passion, deep emotional attachment, and profound intimacy. I confess there were moments when the detail felt a bit overwhelming and I found myself eager for something to “happen.” But by the end of the book, I came to appreciate the way the author used the descriptions to lay a foundation for what was to come.
It’s a wonderful read though also sad. Because, by the end, it becomes much more about the decisions we all make in life, how those decisions shape our path, and how we sometimes long for the path not taken.
More about the author.
You may be interested to know that a movie was made in 2017 based on this book.