Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Realistic Fiction: The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano

Publisher: Penguin Books
Translator: not credited
Date: 2008
Format: paperback
Source: World Literature Today
Read: for the WLT Book Club
Pages: 271
Reading time: two days

From GoodReads: A prime number is a lonely thing. It can only be divided by itself or by one, and it never truly fits with another. Alice and Mattia are both "primes" - misfits haunted by early tragedies. When the two meet as teenagers, they recognize in each other a kindred, damaged spirit. Years later, a chance encounter reunites them and forces a lifetime of concealed emotion to the surface. But can two prime numbers ever find a way to be together?

My review: The Solitude of Prime Numbers started out fascinating and engrossing. The reader is first plopped into Alice's and Mattia's childhood tragedies, then taken to when they meet as fifteen-year-olds. The part of the novel where the characters are teens in particular spoke out to me. While my adolescent years were never quite as awful as what Alice and Mattia face, coming from their backgrounds of trauma and then facing bullies and other high school mess, I could still identify with some of their feelings of loneliness and not fitting in with everyone else. The duo's experiences are heartbreaking, but Giordano's writing makes them also seem lyrical and transcendent.

As Alice and Mattia aged, however, I grew less attached to them and to the novel. They didn't seem quite as likable, instead having their more self-centered and unfeeling traits become apparent. I quit being able to empathize with them as much as before, and the book lost some of its appeal. It reminded me a lot of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (Aimee Bender) - similar themes, and I guess the characters' experiences and demeanors make it inevitable that the conclusion is not exactly the satisfying, happily-ever-after ending one would hope for in both the situations described and just in reading the novel.

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