Plot summary[ edit ] The narrator, Elio Perlman , recalls the events of the summer of about , when he was seventeen and living with his parents in Italy. Each summer, his parents would take in a doctoral student as a house guest for six weeks, who would revise a book manuscript while assisting his father with academic paperwork. Elio resents the tradition, as it requires him to vacate his bedroom so the guest can use it for the duration of their stay. Though Elio recognizes his own bisexuality and his attraction to Oliver—he is particularly excited by his discovery that Oliver is Jewish, seeing it as a bond between them—he doubts that Oliver reciprocates his feelings.
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Save Story Save this story for later. It conjured a swoony romance between two young men, Elio and Oliver, in an Italian seaside town. Then it ended in heartbreak as gentle as the sun slipping beneath the sea.
En route, Samuel meets a twentysomething woman with whom he conducts an affair. The perspective switches to Elio, who remains haunted by memories of Oliver while pursuing Michel, a lawyer nearly twice his age, and to Oliver, now a professor in the United States, who is throwing a party with his wife and lusting after two guests. The longest section belongs to Samuel and his paramour, Miranda. Miranda is model-gorgeous but dressed carelessly; her demeanor is a mix of wryness, impetuousness, and tenderness.
She takes black-and-white photographs and makes forgettable observations that prompt Samuel to marvel at her brilliance. The admiration is mutual. So I quoted Goethe again. This points to a bigger problem with the book: since all of the narrators are in love and interact mainly with their lovers, the only opinions we ever hear expressed about these people are sweaty and rapturous. The result is a novel that feels besotted with its characters despite scant evidence of their charms.
The sex writing itself is unfortunate. The second section, about Elio and Michel, reprises the May-December dyad. The two men meet at a classical-music concert and begin to flirt, probe, and speak wistfully about their fathers, who taught them music. Is this plangent or preposterous? Michel maintains a civil yet distant relationship with his own son, which pains him, because he longs for someone with whom he can reminisce warmly about his dad.
But perhaps Elio can fulfill that function. The Oliver section is likewise seeded with defective epiphanies. Oliver finds himself drawn to two party guests, a man and a woman. In fact, he is drawn to the Elio in them; together, they add up to the boy he left behind. This instrumentalization is meant to feel poignant, but it comes off as callous.
She did not hesitate in turning around to one of the waiters. Right away they got quiet. On warm days, I love sitting under the umbrella to read. Later in the evening I have drinks with friends either on my balcony or in the larger terrace upstairs above the third floor. Aciman wants us to approve of his sweethearts so that we can participate in their co-enchantment.
This worked in his previous novel. Their universality, too, formed part of their appeal: precisely drawn, with delicately shaded interactions, the Elio and Oliver of made for a convincing portrait of first love. Yet it is fellow feeling that these lovers seem to desire above all.
In psychology, attunement, which is sometimes cited as a prerequisite for healthy love, denotes an ability to intuit what the other needs, and to interpret signs in the way that they were intended. The book wants to be intimate, profound, but it reads as glib and remote, impervious to actual feeling.
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