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.
I’m still trying to sort through those feelings, honestly.
This is the story about 17 year old Elio, who spends summers on the Italian Riviera with his family. This summer in particular is sometime mis 80’s. 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.
Elio’s father is a professor and every summer, a master’s student comes to stay with them. The student 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.
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 so beautiful.
Elio is also incredibly self aware for a 17 year old. That self awareness coupled with the affection and obsession that haunts all teens and first loves is startling.
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.
The ending was rough. Like I get this is probably the only way it could end but that doesn’t mean I have to 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.
It sort of feels like you’re simultaneously intruding on, and being included in, a very intimate moment.
Ugh. Can you tell I have lots of feelings? I said I wouldn’t wax on. You should know better than to believe me.