In a small town in northern Italy, Elio Pearlman and his family welcome an American scholar named Oliver to live with them for the summer under the tutelage of Elio’s father. As the summer wears on, Elio and Oliver find their relationship deepening.
Call Me By Your Name is one of the richest stories of young love I’ve ever read and I have no doubt it will become a touchstone of our time for LGBTQ literature. What spoke to me most about this story is that anyone who has ever had a first love will find themselves in these pages, whether they’re still in it or if it’s just a fond memory. The characters fall deeply for each other without mention of the word and the brevity of their romance, stretched over just one summer, creates a heartbreakingly beautiful story. The book takes us into the mind and heart of Elio with such genuine clarity. Every feeling he has and all of his attempts to be aloof in the presence of someone he is very much in love with are so charming and real. The honesty with which falling in love is portrayed is really wonderful and takes a lot of talent to capture.
The setting of the story is equally well-crafted. The small town in Italy created an alternate reality where two young men growing up in the 80s could explore their deep feelings for one another in an unbridled way. In a conversation with the author I attended here in Chicago, Aciman talked about wanting to create a world for this story to bloom away from the prejudice and violence gay men would have faced in the 80s in other places. This intention came through loud and clear. Elio and Oliver’s removal from the world added a lot to the story both in tone and in subtly addressing the reality behind the idealistic, rose-tinted love story. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention how stunning the visualization is throughout Call Me By Your Name. The romance of Monet’s berm, the piazzas, and the Pearlman’s luxurious home added so much luxe joy to this story and instantly made me want to book a flight to Italy!
Finally, the writing in this story seems to intentionally ebb and flow. Because the words are tied so closely to our main character, Elio’s, emotions, Aciman’s writing follows along. When Elio hasn’t accepted his feelings for Oliver, Aciman’s writing is angry and staccato. When Elio is floating on clouds after baring his soul to Oliver, the sentences become long and they flow into one another. This is a great success of the story, as it brings the reader deeper into every sentence. If I didn’t already, this technique alone would make me want to pick up more by this author.
Overall? I loved this book and think it will only become more of a classic love story as it ages. The movie adaptation is equally lovely, winning an Oscar for best screenplay in 2018.
PUBLICATION DETAILS: Holtzbrinck Publishers, Media Tie In edition (October 3, 2017); 978-1250169440; 256 pp. Romance -> LGBTQ