Call Me By Your Name is a novel about a teenage boy who develops a passionate friendship and romance with a guest scholar who comes to stay at his summer home in the Italian Riviera. It is definitely one of the best romance novels of the 21st century. What made the story so believable for me was Elio’s detailed first person account. Andre Aciman delve deep into his mind. One strength of the novel is that Aciman does not overload the pages with too much dialogue, for that would slow the narrative. When there is dialogue, it is just the right amount. It is not too long, nor is it too short.
Aciman has an interesting way of showing how Oliver’s words affect Elio emotionally. The very first line of the novel, for example, is “‘Later! The word, the voice, the attitude.’” The way the sentence stands on its own and the italicization of the word later makes you wonder how the word came into context in Elio and Oliver’s conversation.
I love Aciman’s allusions to Dante and early-mid 20th century European poetry. Similar to some of Elio’s thoughts and journal entries, they are italicized and it looks fancy on the page. While the reader may not understand all of the Italian words, it still makes the novel engaging because it makes you feel as if you are in the moment with Elio and Oliver as Oliver works on his translations.
The setting in Italy and the use of Italian language gives the novel a classic feel, especially with the allusions to Dante. Also, the setting and imagery made me recall my vague memories of the novel A Room With a View by E.M. Forster. From what I remember, A Room With a View has scenes in Italy as well. I have not read it in a while, but I checked it out from the library I worked at to read it again so I can compare it to Call Me By Your Name. Interestingly, James Ivory wrote the screenplay to upcoming film adaptation of Call Me By Your Name coming to theatres this November. Interestingly, James Ivory directed the film adaptation of A Room With a View. Ivory also directed an adaptation of E.M. Forster’s Maurice. Like Call Me By Your Name, Maurice is a love story between two men. Perhaps the novel of Call Me By Your Name made him think of Maurice and A Room With a View.That being said, Andre Aciman’s use of setting and literary allusions gives this progressive love story an old, classical feel. I wonder if the film adaptation will do justice to the novel. We shall wait and see. I saw an article headline saying that Andre Aciman might make Call Me By Your Name into a book trilogy. I don’t think Aciman necessarily needs to continue the story. Nevertheless, I loved the writing style and narration in the novel, so it shall be interesting to see how he continues to use his tools of craft with such interesting characters and a beautiful setting. That is, if he makes Call Me By Your Name into a trilogy. In closing, I highly recommend Call Me By Your Name. I, of course, have not seen the film adaptation being that it is not in theatres yet. Nonetheless, if you plan on seeing the movie, I suggest you read the book first.