There’s an episode of Friends in which Rachel finds Joey’s copy of The Shining in the freezer. Puzzled, she asks Joey about it and in true Joey fashion, he explains that he feels safer with the book there, given how scary the book is. In fact, he doesn’t pick it up (he’s read it a couple of times) unless he’s sure there’s enough room in the freezer for it. Rachel brings up Little Women (she’s read that a couple of times, too, but that’s okay because it’s a classic — ‘what’s so special about The Shining?’), and the two of them decide to switch books. Later on, they spoil their book’s ending for the other, but after Rachel spoils Little Women’s ending for Joey and sees how upset he is about it, she fabricates a happier ending for him. He buys it, but as he approaches the end of the novel, he begins to realize it’s not the happy ending he was hoping for and goes to Rachel for comfort. To make him feel better, she asks him if he wants to put the book in the freezer. He hands the book to Rachel without giving it a second thought.
It took me a while to start reading this one. I had just put down Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda so I was on a somewhat positive cloud, pleased to have been given a pleasant ending as a reward for reading a book whose narrative style I didn’t particularly enjoy. Badboysavant had been urging me to pick up André Aciman’s novel, Call Me By Your Name, which he had just finished and fallen in love with and whose movie version we had recently failed to catch at one of the film festivals in Manila because we had expected its ticket buyers to be scarce (we couldn’t have been more wrong). He had let me read a snippet or two with him while he was still reading it, and I just thought it was so beautifully written that I remember wanting to jump ship and forget about Simon and just start reading CMBYN instead…but for some reason, I had decided to put it off; I’d just read Simon a lot faster.
When I did finally get to pick it up, though, that was it for me.
The novel is told through the eyes of Elio, an intelligent, precocious 17-year-old young man whose family hosts foreign guests in their home in Italy each summer. In 1983, his family hosts an American scholar named Oliver, whom Elio is instantly drawn to (though he is unable to immediately recognize or admit it). What follows is an account of everything that transpires between and around Elio and Oliver, replete with his introspections that prove to be eloquent, unabashed, funny, and sometimes painful reminders of our very own struggles with self-awareness, attraction, sex, and love.
Spoilers afoot — proceed with caution.