Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman | Book Review

Book: Call Me By Your Name

Authors: André Aciman

Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

Pages: 248 Pages

Format: Paperback

Source: Purchased from Amazon

Links to Purchase:  Amazon CABook Depository, Chapters Indigo

Please Note: I know this book is the subject of controversy. I'm aware of it. I don't have the energy to discuss the controversy, especially since most of the controversy is being perpetrated by people who haven't read the book. If you don't like the book, feel free to chat with me about it, but don't come for me if you haven't read it, or just want to attack people. Thanks.

Andre Aciman's 'Call Me by Your Name' is the story of a sudden and powerful romance that blossoms between an adolescent boy and a summer guest at his parents' cliffside mansion on the Italian Riviera. Each is unprepared for the consequences of their attraction, when, during the restless summer weeks, unrelenting currents of obsession, fascination, and desire intensify their passion and test the charged ground between them. Recklessly, the two verge toward the one thing both fear they may never truly find again: total intimacy. It is an instant classic and one of the great love stories of our time.

This is one of the cases where I saw the movie before I read the book. Honestly, had it not been nominated for a few Oscars, I never would have heard about this book. But I'm so glad I did. This book has shattered me. It has broken my heart and sewed it back together, and broken it again. I cannot begin to explain or express the beauty of this book. But I'm writing a review, so I'm going to at least try. 

The narration of this book is what struck me so hard. Written almost in hindsight, Elio is looking back on his time as a teenager, and looking at the relationship he had with Oliver. The voice is mature enough to give weight and understanding to everything that is being said, but also young enough to express the wordlessness that comes with his first real love. I was expecting the voice of this novel to be a lot younger, and almost immature, but I got the opposite. The balance in the narration, between young pettiness, and adult comprehension of the complex emotions was so beautiful. 

This was also the most atmospheric book I've read in a really long time. There was something about the writing that inspired hot, humid, Italian days. It felt like I knew exactly what the air smelt like, and knew what the sun felt like. Which is pretty intense since I've never been to Italy. It sets a perfect landscape that is as warm and romantic as it is historic, but also brand new. I cannot describe the experience of reading this book and fully encapsulate it. It was breathtaking, totally immersive, and I was consumed by it.

The novel is very physical. It details a relationship that is as physical as it is romantic. But the content never crosses into gratuitous. On the line between erotic and intimate, it never veers too far one way or the other. This book isn't erotica, and the physicality and sexuality aren't unnecessarily added. Each scene, whether physical or not, adds to the overall story and meaning.

The relationship, it has to be said, is the highlight of the book. Before the romantic relationship or the physical relationship begins, the way Aciman describes their friendship, and how Elio's longing factors into it, was so interesting, and blew me away. And once Elio and Oliver's relationship became more defined, my heart kept on breaking and mending, over and over again, while reading about them. I knew how the story would end, and I knew that their relationship was not destined for longevity, but every stolen moment that was described was as equally heart warming as it was heart breaking.

The last thing I want to talk about is Mr. Perlman's speech at the end. The scene in the movie properly broke me, but honestly? Reading it was a completely different experience. What he was saying, about not letting grief emotionally bankrupting oneself. "But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything -- what a waste!" He says to Elio, telling him to let himself feel the things he feels. In a book narrated by a character who is so obsessed with the idea of shame, and being a sick person, this moment of "you're not shameful, and you're not sick" in the face of love, was so beautiful. I cannot get over this section.

I cannot stop thinking about this book. The entire time I was reading it, I had a pen in my hand, underlining line after line, because of how beautiful it is. There are some passages that I just cannot get out of my head, and some scenes that have really shaken me. Saying I loved this book is not enough of a compliment to it. This is such an outlier, as not many books achieve the status of 'untouchable' in the way that this one has. I loved it.

5/5 Stars.

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