Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
Author of the celebrated memoir Out of Egypt, Aciman offers a debut novel about a brief but transformative summer affair between a teenager and a visitor at his parents' Italian villa. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Egyptian-born Aciman is the author of the acclaimed memoir Out of Egypt and of the essay collection False Papers. His first novel poignantly probes a boy's erotic coming-of-age at his family's Italian Mediterranean home. Elio 17, extremely well-read, sensitive and the son of a prominent expatriate professor finds himself troublingly attracted to this year's visiting resident scholar, recruited by his father from an American university. Oliver is 24, breezy and spontaneous, and at work on a book about Heraclitus. The young men loll about in bathing suits, play tennis, jog along the Italian Riviera and flirt. Both also flirt (and more) with women among their circle of friends, but Elio, who narrates, yearns for Oliver. Their shared literary interests and Jewishness help impart a sense of intimacy, and when they do consummate their passion in Oliver's room, they call each other by the other's name. A trip to Rome, sanctioned by Elio's prescient father, ushers Elio fully into first love's joy and pain, and his travails set up a well-managed look into Elio's future. Aciman overcomes an occasionally awkward structure with elegant writing in Elio's sweet and sanguine voice. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal Review
Adult/High School-Seventeen-year-old Elio faces yet another lazy summer at his parents' home on the Italian coast. As in years past, his family will host a young scholar for six weeks, someone to help Elio's father with his research. Oliver, the handsome American visitor, charms everyone he meets with his cavalier manner. Elio's narrative dwells on the minutiae of his meandering thoughts and growing desire for Oliver. What begins as a casual friendship develops into a passionate yet clandestine affair, and the last chapters fast-forward through Elio's life to a reunion with Oliver decades later. Elio recalls the events of that summer and the years that follow in a voice that is by turns impatient and tender. He expresses his feelings with utter candor, sharing with readers his most private hopes, urges, and insecurities. The intimacy Elio experiences with Oliver is unparalleled and awakens in the protagonist an intensity that dances on the brink of obsession. Although their contact in the ensuing years is limited to the occasional phone call or postcard, Elio continues to harbor an insatiable desire for Oliver. His longing creates a tension that is present from the first sentence to the last.-Heidi Dolamore, San Mateo County Library, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
This first novel is a meditation on sexual longing as well as an exploration of the selfishness that such longing engenders. The author's beautiful articulation of the thrill and dismay of unspoken desire underscores the misunderstandings inherent in such a state. A first novel is usually judged by its sophistication level: by how much or how little the author sounds like a beginner. Aciman's debut is nimble, poised, perceptive, and intelligent. Its emphasis on psychology over plot does not leave it lacking in drive and movement. The novel depicts a male teenager who, although practiced in having to accept his parents' summer guests at their Italian seaside villa, is slammed by an unexpected provocation when, in the summer of his seventeenth year, a male graduate student arrives, and his obvious intelligence and charm are matched by an undisguised sexiness. What is disguised, at least initially, is the attraction the boy and the graduate student feel for each other. Once the games are stopped, however, and once their mutual desire is acknowledged, a torrid summer ensues--one that will live in the teenager's memory forever. --Brad Hooper Copyright 2006 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
Graceful debut novel by memoirist/literary scholar Aciman (False Papers, 2000, etc.), joining young love to his familiar themes of dislocation and wandering. One could be arrested in certain parts of the world for the young love in question, which joins a 17-year-old bookish musician who is improbably well educated--not many college-educated adults have read Celan, heard of Athanasius Kircher or have a context for the Latin cor cordium--with a 24-year-old scholar with one foot in the world of the classical Greeks and another in whatever demimondes an Italian seaside village can offer. Oliver has cruelly good looks and looks cruelly at the world, a "cold, sagacious judge of character and situations." Slathered in suntan oil, bronzing in the Mediterranean sun, he sends young Elio into a swoon at first sight. Oliver is well aware of the effect, for everyone, male and female, falls in love with him: Elio's professor father, whose houseguest Oliver is, has appreciation for the younger man's fearlessness in arguing over philosophy and etymology, the young village girls for his muvi star affectations, older women for his cowboy manners. Possibilities worthy of Highsmith loom, but though Oliver has his dangerous side (for one thing, he's a cardsharp), Aciman never quite dispenses with innocence; Elio's love has a certain chaste quality to it ("I was Glaucus and he was Diomedes"), which doesn't lessen the hurt when the whole thing unravels, at which point intellectual gamesmanship fades away and the wisest man in the book is revealed to be Elio's gently thoughtful father, who has unsuspected depths and offers consolation as best he can: "Right now there's sorrow. I don't envy you the pain. But I envy you the pain." That pain yields a happy ending, of a sort. With shades of Marguerite Duras and Patrick White, a quiet, literate and impeccably written love story. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.