Book Review : Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman
Call Me by Your Name is the story of a sudden and powerful romance that blossoms between an adolescent boy and a summer guest at his parents’ cliff-side mansion on the Italian Riviera. Unprepared for the consequences of their attraction, at first each feigns indifference.
But during the restless summer weeks that follow, unrelenting buried currents of obsession and fear, fascination and desire, intensify their passion as they test the charged ground between them. What grows from the depths of their spirits is a romance of scarcely six weeks’ duration and an experience that marks them for a lifetime. For what the two discover on the Riviera and during a sultry evening in Rome is the one thing both already fear they may never truly find again: total intimacy.
The psychological maneuvers that accompany attraction have seldom been more shrewdly captured than in André Aciman’s frank, unsentimental, heartrending elegy to human passion. Call Me by Your Name is clear-eyed, bare-knuckled, and ultimately unforgettable.
- I have also dedicated a post for my favorite quotes in Call Me By Your Name. Click here for said blog post.
Feel free to click play to get the feel of what Call Me By Your Name is about :
A Sneak Peek Into The Story :
That word, that voice, that attitude. It sounds harsh, blunt, cocky. Spoken as if the speaker does not have a care to see, or hear from you again. And that is the first thing that Elio remembers about him. You watch, Elio remembers thinking, this is how he will say goodbye to us when the time comes. With the brisk and curt, Later!
If he closes his eyes, Elio can still picture him there. Standing there with his billowy blue shirt, wide-open collar, sunglasses, straw hat, skin everywhere. He always moves with a sense of certainty, determination. Confidence. He intimidates Elio, this Oliver. This summer’s house guest seems like an unapproachable sort. Even then, though, Elio can grow to like him. And also within days, Elio will also learn to hate him.
Every summer, Elio’s parents always take in summer guests. It is his parents’ way of helping young academics revise their manuscript before publication. For six weeks of each summer, the guest are to stay in Elio’s room. While Elio will have to move out of his bedroom to one that is much smaller down the corridor, to the one that used to belong to his grandfather. Not only does Elio’s parents want the summer guests to feel at home while they are in B., they also want them to feel as if they are a part of the family. Therefore, the summer residents are given full run of the house. They can basically do as they please. Given that they spend an hour or so a day helping Elio’s father with his correspondence and paperwork.
With Elio being the son of the professor, he was asked to show the summer guest the house and it’s surrounding area. And when the American says he wants to open a bank account in B., and then pay a visit to his Italian translator for his book, Elio decides to take him there by bike. Their conversation however, is no better on wheels than on foot.
What did one do around here?
Nothing. Wait for summer to end.
What did one do in the winter, then?
I smiled at the answer I was about to give. He got the gist and said, “Don’t tell me: wait for summer to come, right?”
I liked having my mind read.
Through their brief conversation, Elio finds out that Oliver likes to jog early in the morning. Where does one jog around here, Oliver asks. I can show you, Elio offers. But then, just as Elio is starting to warm up to him, he slaps back with a : “Later, maybe.”
Late at night, when Elio lies on his crisp, clean sheets with the breeze coming in from the open window, he finds himself thinking through their conversations. Oliver. The skin of his hands, his chest, his feet. His eyes. It finally dawn on Elio that he has all along, without seeming to, without even admitting it, already been trying – and failing – to win him over.
“How couldn’t I have known, you ask?
I know desire when I see it—and yet, this time, it slipped by completely. ”
So, let us first get this out of the way : I have watched the movie, and I have read the book. The reason why I even choose to pick the book up in the first place, was solely because of the movie. With that said, while I enjoyed the movie a lot, I cannot say the same for the book.
I have seen the hype around this book. And it’s crazy how people rave about how magnificent and wonderful this book is. Now, don’t get me wrong. By no means I am saying that this book is bad. It is just, for a book that has garnered such a hype, I guess I expected, more. More emotions, more depth to the characters, just generally more than everything I got from this book.
First off, the writing. I know there are a lot of people who enjoyed André’s writing. His lyrical and entrancingly written sentences have succeeded to make readers around the world swoon with it’s beauty. Sadly, this little bean right here wasn’t all that impressed. You see, I am all down for beautifully written sentences that makes you want to weep with tears of joy every time you read them. But only when it is actually adding some context to the story itself. When all of those sentences are just filler and a repetition of what the main character is feeling, it gets really boring, really fast.
This book truly drags around the middle because there wasn’t a lot happening other than Elio and Oliver ignoring each other, pretend the other doesn’t exist while lounging in sun and enjoying their pressed apricot juice. At the same time, I still have to wade through all of that beautifully written proses that – again – truly adds nothing new to the story.
Secondly, I have read romance for a good chunk of my life. Your girl love love. I go bananas for love. I celebrate that ish like it’s nobody’s business because I am head over heels for love. But this book? I don’t think it is a love story at all. Sure, it has some aspect of romance. Though I don’t think it can be classified as romance. For me, this book is more of a coming-of-age story. It is very obvious in the book that Elio is still trying to figure himself out and discover what he likes. It is just that, his feelings for Oliver is so intense, the fire of his want for Oliver so bright that this could have been mistaken for love. When in truth, what he thinks as “love” for Oliver, could have been lust. Infatuation. Obsession.
“What I hoped he hadn’t noticed in my overreaction to his grip was something else. Before shirking off his arm, I knew I had yielded to his hand and had almost leaned into it, as if to say—as I’d heard adults so often say when someone happened to massage their shoulders while passing behind them—Don’t stop. Had he noticed I was ready not just to yield but to mold into his body?”
Because throughout the book, almost everything Elio thinks about when it comes to Oliver has something to do with his body. Be it something as simple as Oliver’s underarms or knees or heels, Elio seems to be turned on by it. Again, which is totally fine by me, but all of that doesn’t exactly equal to a “powerful romance”.
Third, as I mentioned earlier, I have quite a high expectation going into this book. Seeing how much I loved and enjoyed the movie, I expected the book to give me more or less of the same feeling. Of course, I was wrong. The book was… underwhelming to say the least. I wasn’t able to connect with the characters at all. Most of all Elio. Which is odd, seeing that it was written so heavily from his POV.
By reading the book, basically, I was going through whatever Elio was going through with him. I was practically saying, “here, hold my hand. I’ll hold yours too, and I won’t let go. Let’s get through this together, you and I.”
So even though I did not – might not – ever feel the emotions as intensely as Elio might have, I still expected to feel something. But I didn’t. Throughout the reading process, it was as if I was watching the whole thing unfold from a cracked tv screen that has a barely discernible audio. Sure, I get the gist of it. I get what is going on. But I could not sympathize with what is going on, whatsoever.
And last but not least. Oliver. Oliveroliveroliveroliver.
I have so many unanswered questions and suspicions when it comes to him. I don’t know why, when compared to the movie version of Oliver, book Oliver seems more cunning and calculative. It could be because the whole thing was written from Elio’s POV in the book so that I did not have anything else but his thoughts to base it off. But, I just cannot find myself totally on board with Elio and Oliver’s relationship.
For some reason, it always feels as if Oliver has a secret agenda. Be it because he is 7 years older than Elio, which equals to years and years of experience that Elio does not yet have, let alone aware of. Be it that he has 6 weeks in a totally foreign country where nobody knows him. Where he can be whoever he wants to be, do whatever he wants to do. Do whoever he wants to do. There is just something about his aloofness, his nonchalance that I find disconcerting.
“It was almost as though he were doing it on purpose; feeding me slack,
and more slack, and then yanking away any semblance of fellowship.”
Could it be, maybe that at the time, Oliver saw how Elio was struggling to understand his desire and wants that he decides to toy with it? To play his devious game of push and pull with Elio until Elio can no longer ignore him. Until eventually, Elio decides to give in to a decision that he thought he was solely responsible for making. Only to realize that all this time, Oliver has been nudging him towards that choice all along. Or was it that, because of Oliver’s ego, he wants to leave his mark on the professor’s son? As if to say, there is nothing, man or woman, that I cannot conquer and bend to my will?
Or could it be, maybe, just maybe, that Oliver is truly just a shy man who does not know how to articulate his feelings. So instead, he chooses to be cold and disinterested when it comes to Elio? Because Elio makes him feel so much, makes him burn so hot and oh so intensely, that he does not know how to handle it?
“The thud my heart gave when I saw him unannounced both terrified and thrilled me. I was afraid when he showed up, afraid when he failed to, afraid when he looked at me, more frightened yet when he didn’t.”
I don’t know. Oliver’s intentions, whatever they might be, are just that. Theories. I will never know what goes through Oliver’s head, nor do I think I ever will. This might just be a series of questions that I will take to my grave. Unless, of course, André Aciman decides to come out with a book from Oliver’s POV? *wink wink nudge nudge Mr.Aciman?*
The Verdict :
To say that this book was not enjoyable at the very least, would be a lie. As much as I have pointed out the things that bothered me throughout the book, I still enjoyed it. Mildly.
What surprises me is how differently this book makes me view both Elio and Oliver. After watching the movie, I think nothing more of these two than two people who happen to fall love with each other, at the wrong time and place. Of course, there are obstacles, but their characters in the movie are one dimensional. My thoughts, after finishing the movie, are totally different from my thoughts after finishing the book.
“There is a law somewhere that says that when one person is thoroughly smitten with the other, the other must unavoidably be smitten as well. Amor ch’a null’amato amar perdona. Love, which exempts no one who’s loved from loving. Just wait and be hopeful. I was hopeful, though perhaps this was what I had wanted all along.
To wait forever.”
After reading the book, I have come to realize the they are two very complicated and complex being.
Despite how one might appear on the outside, it might be a totally different story with what is going on inside their heads. So as one of my dear friend says, it is interesting how every single readers’ take away from this book is different.
And despite this book not being what I expected it to be, I would still highly recommend reading Call Me By Your Name. Not only for it’s ability to make you ponder and think about what truly matters in life, but also, as was mentioned in the summary of the book, it will definitely be an unforgettable book and characters, whose story will stay with you for a very, very long time.
“If I could have him like this in my dreams every night of my life,
I’d stake my entire life on dreams and be done with the rest.”
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