I just completed reading Call Me by Your Name, an amazing first novel by André Aciman, published in 2007. Without question this is one of the most powerful, well crafted, beautifully written novels I have ever read. It is a book I know I could easily pick up and re-read once or twice more and each time finish with new insights and an enormous sense of satisfaction. Were it not for the fact that I have a long list of other works I am hoping to enjoy in the months ahead, I would do just that. This is a book that I believe the reader wants to read slowly to savor both the language and impressions. I liken it to a well-aged bottle of wine that one uncorks and allows to aerate before sipping slowly, letting the rich flavors delight the taste buds before gently swallowing. Or an incredible meal at a favorite five-star restaurant where you have dined before and where you want to linger over a long dinner with an old friend or new love. The author has an amazing mastery of language and paints superb images and characters in this very sensual literary novel.
The story is told through the eyes of a man who recounts his experience from 20 years earlier when he was 17 years of age. Elio comes from a well-educated and wealthy family who live on the Italian Rivera. Each summer his father a literature professor has a house guest for six weeks to assist the young academician prepare a manuscript before publication. One summer Oliver, a young handsome American Columbia University grad student comes to stay and very quickly Elio becomes passionately and obsessively drawn to him, a new sexual awakening for the teen. The two eventually do consummate their relationship but not before Aciman slowly and sensually describes the longings Elio is feeling and the incredible game of cat and mouse the two play. The affair becomes very heated and ends when Robert returns to the U.S. immediately following their passionate and memorable trip together to Rome. Even with the passage of 20 years, the powerful influence Oliver has had on Elio remains.
From start to finish Aciman somehow captures raw human emotions in a way that very few authors are capable of doing. Some readers will no doubt become bored with the slow pace but for someone who truly enjoys well written prose, the journey is fantastic. Longing, passion, romance, tenderness, remorse are all in abundance here, not in some romance novel sort of way but in a manner that rings authentic. I have been very fortunate in my choice of authors and titles to read preparing for my novel. This one to date is my favorite.