Call Me By Your Name – Andre Aciman

One of the things that I love about where I work, though sadly only for another month or so, is that the team I am on all love books. They are very much into not only sharing their books (I have a lovely pile of doubled copies for them) they also love to talk about books. So when one of them asked me if I had read ‘Call Me By Your Name’ by Andre Aciman and raved about it as one of the ‘most beautifully written books I have ever read but also one of the most graphically shocking’ I whizzed it up my TBR. Atlantic Books had actually sent me this a while ago and I hadn’t gotten round to reading it, this of course has changed.

Told by Elio, the son of an academic in the 1980’s in the Italian Riviera, this is a tale of love that shouldn’t be and obsession. When Elio’s father takes on a house guest and ‘summer helper’ seventeen year old Elio falls head over heels in love. However his father’s house guest is Oliver, a dark moody and secretive character who seems only to despise Elio. There is also the fact that Oliver is a man and therefore the attraction that Elio feels shouldn’t really be. 

It’s very difficult to say more without giving the plot away, I shall say that what follows is a tale of fascination and desire that threatens to overwhelm them both and take them on a journey that will change their lives forever. Aciman holds you in suspense as to what might happen for pages and pages and the prose is utterly taught and utterly beautiful. I don’t think that I have read such beautifully written and composed prose in a very, very long time.

Though in some ways it discusses the confused emotions of Elio, and in some ways second hand from Oliver’s perspective, over and over again it never feels repetitive even as Elio obsesses for almost 150 pages and nothing really happens you are still riveted by it. When something does happen between the lovers it is quite graphic and quite intense and definitely not for the faint hearted or those of you who may be of a delicate or slightly prudish disposition. Though actually I hope in this day and age there aren’t many of those readers out there. Read it for the prose and the love story.

Also read it for the ending as not only is it not what you expect at all, I can imagine a film of this must be in the making at the moment as I would imagine there wouldn’t be a dry eye in the house. There is also one scene between Elio and his father which has touched me more than anything I have read in months and months, possibly even this year.

I don’t often demand that people read a book this is one book that I urge people to read. I honestly haven’t read anything so taught with emotions and complex feelings in a long, long time and that from me is seriously saying something. I know my review didn’t give very much away as to how the book unfolds or what happens but to tell you that would mean you didn’t have to read it and you do. The blurb says that ‘the six weeks together will prove to be an experience that will mark them both for a lifetime’ and I think the same could be said for anyone who has read this book.



Filed under Andre Aciman, Atlantic Books, Books of 2009, Review

11 responses to “Call Me By Your Name – Andre Aciman

  1. armen

    I’ve read it couple of weeks ago when a friend suggested to me and i was mesmerized by the language.
    I really loved the way he developed the story and the relationship between the two and the beauty of the words.
    I’ve recommended it to a few friend and i’ve ordered his much appreciated memoirs on egypt.

  2. I’ll take that challenge – delicate and prudish I am not! I can’t imagine a review that is more persuasive to read a book, and as a result I have written it on my list. Don’t know when I’ll get to it, but the fact that it is on the list ensures that it will be read someday! Great review, by the way. I hope that means you are feeling better?

    • Hahahaha am really glad that you are taking on the challenge in parts its not for the squeamish, it is utterly stinning in terms of writing! Very much recommended as you might have guessed!

  3. More emotional than The Other Hand? I’m not sure I could cope with that!

    I’ve added it to my wishlist and wil read it at some point.

  4. Joe

    I discovered this book in my public library last summer. I checked it out and read it during a weekend away with my significant other. I was as captivated by the story, emotion, and prose as Elio was captivated by Oliver. I bought the book and have read it again twice. There are passages that I read and re-read for the beauty of the prose, and for the emotions the words stir in me. It’s truly a beautiful homage to desire, passion, and remembrance.

    • Hi Joe, thank you very much for commenting on the post. This is a wonderful book isn’t it, very emotional and quite heartbreaking and gut wrenching in parts, but I do think we need books like that now and again. I will definately be interested in reading more of Aciman’s work.

  5. I read this book last summer and it was so profound and life changing. For two weeks I was mesmerized by the writing and how the story evolved that I would read and re-read it again and again because it was so beautifully written. I read a lot of novels that summer but this one stood out by far. I wanted to be 17 once again and right these on the Italian Riviera.

  6. Thomas

    Elegy for Elio

    Lament your loss, Elio?
    I cry for yours – tearful eyes.

    Wondrous distant emotions.
    They were wasted – careless youths!

    Stupidity, is that it?
    Slipping by – they allowed it.

    I beg Him, can you forgive?
    Grant me one more in this life.

  7. Mark

    I am newer to the book and find myself searching on the Internet to connect with others about it.

    The sexual nature of it isn’t so much shocking to me as it is honest, when I remember what it was like to be 17, processing and experiencing my own body. So I would prefer to call it honest, although I do understand how so many are taken aback by several of the graphic scenes. I expect those reactions align in some way with the stigmas that keep boys like Elio closeted about their bisexuality. In other cases, readers prefer not to be presented with such material. I don’t mind at all.

    For me, that Elio and Oliver shared all kinds of bodily functions together, even helping Elio vomit in the street, was a symbol of how the barrier that was there between two young man had been defeated, and nothing was left between them to diminish their love other than Elio’s lingering self doubts.

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