Ok, sometimes I’m hip and on top of the popular reads. This is not one of those times. I’m way late to the game.
But at least I finally read it! Was it all in one sitting last night? Yes. Did it leave me conflicted and full of emotions about beauty and humans and honesty? Yes.
But because I’m still trying to sort through those feelings and there’s lots already been said about this book (and movie), I won’t wax on.
This is the story about 17 year old Elio, who spends summers on the Italian Riviera with his family. He reads, bikes, transcribes music, plays tennis, swims at the beach, and drinks lemonade in the sun. Did I mention he keeps a diary and is kind of a loner? Yeah, pretty much everything we could want in a tragic, romantic, idealized protagonist.
And every summer a different young man comes to stay with the family. The man is responsible for helping the professor with correspondence and other paperwork. They also have to be working on their own manuscript and learn Italian. And this fateful summer, their guest is 24 year old Oliver.
Like I said, there is a lot of material out there about their relationship. I encourage you to Google it if you want an in-depth report. I will just say it’s complicated and complex, and beautiful, and has tons of issues. But beautiful.
I guess what surprised me the most was that this wasn’t really about love, it was much closer to obsession. And it was about totally being completely yourself and at the same time, one with another person. Like just total intimacy. Which comes with a whole host of complexities for all humans but especially for Elio and Oliver.
Elio is also incredibly self aware for a 17 year old. All the characters are. But Elio’s self awareness coupled with the affection and obsession that haunts teens and first loves is startling.
Ugh. Can you tell I have lots of feelings? I’m trying to sort them out but it’s a little tricky.
So I’ll wrap it up. The ending was rough. Almost like La La Land or 500 Days of Summer. Like I get this is probably the only way it could end but that does mean I like it.
Then there’s all the beautiful literary elements. Oliver’s name is mentioned a thousand times, Elio’s barely is. There are long, descriptive sentences that are perfect for capturing a young confused brain but are also gorgeous. The story telling wasn’t linear but once you figured out how to follow it, it lent itself to the beautiful dream like quality of the summer story.
I said I wouldn’t wax on. We should all know better than to believe that.
I’m going to watch the movie now (staring the love of my life Timothée Chalamet) and see how it stacks up. My guess is it’s a visually stunning movie but can’t compare to the emotional depth of the book. Aka ever book to movie scenario ever.
If you need me, I’ll be recovering from this Italian pit of beauty and conflicted emotions.
*And listening to LANY until my ears fall off ok bye*