I’m experiencing a bit of a backlog with my reviews. So, forgive me that this comes fairly late in the game. I read this book for a bookstagram challenge and found it to be quite an enjoyable read though a tiny bit meandering. If anything it did make me want to book a flight to Italy immediately! Which is basically torture right now, what with the neverending travel restrictions.
Elio is 17 and, every summer, his family houses a lodger for 6 weeks in their Italian villa. In 1983, the lodger is a 24 year old doctoral student called Oliver. Due to his good looks, Oliver isn’t short of attention from the local girls and Elio too forms an infatuation with him. Eventually the two begin a lust filled (and secretive) summer romance.
André Aciman has a really beautiful prose to his writing and I think this book could have worked better as a novella – I think this would have made the most of his enchanting way with words. I have heard people complain about this title being plotless and, while I do completely agree, I think that’s why I enjoyed it. Aciman’s prose is so captivating, I didn’t mind being a passenger in a slow Italian romance. I think in many way the plotlessness of it reflected reality – the plotlessness of life and the way summer feels never-ending when you’re younger. I miss those days where 6 weeks felt like 6 months. It also made me laugh when Elio would make the smallest interaction with Oliver seem like the biggest event, as it felt so true to how my 17 year old self behaved with her crushes. Aciman absolutely captured those feelings of adolescent infatuation and the etiquette that is involved when wanting to show affection but not wanting to come across as too keen. I think he realistically explores a young boy beginning to understand his sexuality and I think we can’t have enough of titles with LGBTQ+ themes. They’re so important in representing non-hetro relationships and making steps towards demystifying/eliminating “coming out”.
However there are some very raunchy scenes which (to me) occasionally jarred with the over all tone. I mean, there is some very strange acts cast upon an unassuming peach – sorry to give spoilers. There is also lot of intertextual references that I didn’t quite get having never studied philosophy. This made the title feel a little repetitive and arrogant. There were times when I felt I was simply reading the same passages over and over again just with different synonyms, which became a little tiresome. Overall, however, I enjoyed this book a lot.
While I might not be whisked away to provincial Italy anytime soon, this book was certainly a good substitute. I thought that this title felt like a sophisticated YA, blending coming of age themes with almost lyrical philosophical prose. It may have waffled on a bit in parts, but I’ll take a waffle over that decimated peach…