Teenager Elio spends the summer in Italy with his parents as every year. And as every year, they are joined by a doctoral student who can work with Elio’s father – a professor – and revise his own writing. Elio isn’t too thrilled about the intrusion that costs him his room. But this year the student who shows up is Oliver and Oliver has something about him. Elio realizes that he is in love with Oliver, but Oliver’s detached and sometimes outright brazen manner leaves little doubt that he doesn’t reciprocate the feelings.
Call Me By Your Name has a beautiful first half and a more difficult second half. I enjoyed it, but not without reservations.
The first half of the book is a wonderful read. On the one hand, the “will they, won’t they” part of the romance works very well, leaving me following the events almost breathlessly. On the other hand, it perfectly captures that summer holiday feeling I remember from my own teenage years, pared with a longing that seems very particular to young people, somwhere between naive and cynical.
But the very same language that manages this feat in the first half, starts to grate and annoy in the second half. Not only that, the story itself just doesn’t engage and interest as much anymore.
The low point was definitely the trip to Rome that Elio and Oliver take and where a lot of the time is taken up with a meeting with poet who keeps telling racist stories about Thailand (not the first time there was racism in the book, unfortunately, as it also uses the g*psy slur). But even if that part had been removed, the entire part just didn’t work that well for me.
At the end, the book does regain some of its footing and gives us a beautifully sad ending that I found very touching. Even if it didn’t manage to reach quite the heights of the beginning. But at least it is really good with male bisexuality.
Summarizing: For the most part a good read.