book review: Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman

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CALL ME BY YOUR NAME by André Aciman
★★★★☆
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007

 

I think I would have found this book insufferable had it been written by an author with even a sliver less skill than André Aciman. It’s fraught with clichés, as well as an abundance of elements that usually irritate me – characters being preternaturally gifted at everything, talk of sex on just about every page, at times tedious introspection, being told rather than shown how characters feel – but somehow Call Me by Your Name is greater than the sum of its parts, or maybe André Aciman knew exactly what he was doing with this book’s at times infuriating construction, because he ultimately won me over against my better judgment.

Call Me by Your Name is less romantic than I had been expecting. Instead, it’s charged with sexual tension, and the relationship between Elio and Oliver is characterized less by romance than by passion and obsession (which isn’t to say it’s not intensely intimate). Aciman chronicles the somewhat contradictory nature of young love with precision – the fear, the hesitation, the desire that Elio felt were all achingly real. Though it’s a story that builds very slowly, Elio is a compelling narrator, and his struggle for self-awareness a well-crafted thread that holds the novel together.

I think I mainly liked this book for two reasons. The first is that it’s one of the most evocative things I’ve ever read – it transported me back to summer nights in Italy with an unnervingly convincing atmosphere. And the second is that André Aciman’s prose is exquisite. This book is unapologetically pretentious in a way that I found more stimulating than irritating, though I’m sure many would disagree with that assessment. I was reminded of The Secret History in a way – Aciman’s writing is nothing at all like Tartt’s, but the comparison is that some people hate that book for its abundant intellectualism, and some people (myself included) can’t help but to love it for it. I thought the intertextuality in Call Me by Your Name was nothing short of brilliant – references to Paul Celan, Emily Bronte, Michel de Montaigne, Dante, and Claude Monet abound – which for me served to give an understanding of how these characters interacted with the world, or in Elio’s case, hid behind literary references instead of interacting with the world.

I still don’t really know what I’m trying to communicate with this review. This book was nothing like what I’d expected, but I was still utterly swept away by it. I guess I’d been expecting a slow burn romance and instead found myself reading intellectually charged literary soft-erotica, so I think I have to give Aciman credit where it’s due for winning me over, because if that is the book I’d been expecting to read, I don’t think I would have picked it up in the first place. This was a beautiful novel, especially for a story that’s more about the ugliness of love than the beauty of it.

Also, this is the 100th book I finished this year. Yay!

9 thoughts on “book review: Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman

  1. Rachel, I’m so thankful for this review!!! 💖 I want to read it as the movie adaptation is coming out soon, but I haven’t seen many reviews of this one. Yours made me really interested as you compared it to The Secret History, which is probably one of my favourite books ever. I need to check it out! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • I want to see the film adaptation soon too but I had to read the book first! I’m glad I did, it may not have been entirely what I was expecting but it was really striking in its own way.

      Tbh I think the only similarity to TSH is really the unapologetically pretentious prose and inclusion of all kinds of literary references, but if that’s one of the things in particular you enjoyed about TSH you may like CMBYN for the same reason!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ll have to read it soon as I hate to watch movies before reading the books. I also have to read Murder on the Orient Express because I want to watch the movie soon.
        I probably enjoyed it the most and the fact that the characters were obviously some pretentious intellectual assholes. I really love when books include literary references because besides feeling great when I get the reference, I also can get some recommendations.

        Like

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