Content Warning: This book contains rather sexually explicit scenes and this review therefore contains 18+ content.
This year as been a big year for progressive and diverse stories in film, and it is because of the attention these diverse films are getting that I decided to read Call Me By Your Name. I have always been a sucker for a love story, and based on the reviews I had been hearing, I was incredibly excited to read this book.
17-year-old Elio is an only child of highly academic parents. Over the summer, his father allows a resident to spend a few months in their home in Italy to work on thesis papers or novels granted that they also help him with correspondence. This time, that resident is Oliver, and Elio is almost instantly smitten with him.
As their relationship begins to form, different bumps in the road impediment Elio as he struggles with his emotions overall.
The main focus of the story is our narrator, Elio. I find myself horribly biased about this young man, as much of his experiences are also my own. This is a young man far smarter than the average person, let alone a person his own age. He is constantly surrounded by his intellectual parents, their friends, as well as the residents that come and go every summer. As a result, his entire personality is older than he actually is. He has friends his own age, but struggles for a real connection as his intelligence is simply so much greater than theirs.
None of this is to say that Elio believes he is better than anyone – he feels far from that – but his struggle is a real one. His emotional journey through the summer is an intense one that pulls hard at one’s core as he fights to learn what it is he is even fighting for.
Opposite Elio is Oliver. Oliver is an American, and the current resident for the summer program Elio’s parents offer. He is handsome, charming, and unapologetic, thus getting under Elio’s skin pretty much from the beginning. He is a man who knows what he wants, but also knows when it’s not the time to take it. Patient and calculating, it’s no surprise why Elio loves the challenge of this man or why he seeks to impress him
The Issues [spoilers]
Although I understood Elio’s every word throughout this novel, the major issue within it is that Elio is still a minor. Yes he is consenting. Yes he knows what he’s getting into. No, it still is not legal for him to sleep with Oliver. The realization is something handled incredibly well, as Elio grows disgusted with himself for his sexual “deviance”. Regardless though, their relationship is still problematic for the same reason.
Another issue I have was just something that grossed me out. I believe the scene is more an expression of self-destruction but I have also titled it “The American Pie scene”. During this moment, Elio is… intimate… with a peach. It’s sticky and messy and humiliating, but what’s worse is that when Oliver stumbles upon the scene, he takes it upon himself to eat the defiled peach. Cum and call. It made me a little nauseous to read if I’m being completely honest. It was mostly an unnecessary moment.
It’s taken me a while since finishing this book for me to determine what star rating it give it, but after much consideration I’m going to go with 4.5 out of 5 stars. I loved this book. It made me laugh and it broke my heart. As I mentioned before, I can relate a lot to Elio and it always gives me a warm sense of belonging when I find a character like him to care so much about. As many reviewers have said before, this is a love story without an antagonist. It is a look into the life of a young man coming into his own and making mistakes along the way as any young person does.
It’s true there were two or three scenes that grossed me out a little, but at the end of the day, those few scenes don’t detract from the gorgeous prose of Call Me By Your Name.
Published: January 3rd, 2007
Publisher: Picador/Farrar Straus and Giroux
Summary: Andre Aciman’s 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’ cliffside mansion on the Italian Riviera. Each is unprepared for the consequences of their attraction, when, during the restless summer weeks, unrelenting currents of obsession, fascination, and desire intensify their passion and test the charged ground between them. Recklessly, the two verge toward the one thing both fear they may never truly find again: total intimacy. It is an instant classic and one of the great love stories of our time.