The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano

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The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano

Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Nikki Edwards
Reviewed by Nikki Edwards
Summary: An elegant story about loneliness and love from an insightful young author.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: March 2010
Publisher: Black Swan
ISBN: 978-0552775984

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The Solitude of Prime Numbers follows the lives of Alice and Mattia from childhood to middle age. Alice is a wilful anorexic, scarred by a childhood skiing accident and an overbearing father. Mattia is an reclusive self-harmer trying to live with the guilt of having been responsible for his disabled twin sister's death. Their paths cross at a school friend's party during a painful adolescence and their lives are destined to intertwine throughout the coming years, despite the chronic awkwardness of their courtship.

It is the torturous relationship of Alice and Mattia that consumes this book. Deafening silences and adolescent clumsiness, painstakingly drawn, echo through the pages and there is very little happiness to be had. I wouldn't recommend this as a beach read but it's hard not to be drawn in by Giordano's talent for giving voice to his character's darkest, most private thoughts. He has a real gift for unearthing things in the dark corners of the human psyche and revealing them on paper in a way that makes perfect sense.

It is Giordano's intense focus on character that had me hooked from the very first page, which is not to say that I was charmed by Alice and Mattia - I wasn't. They are the most frustrating characters you could possibly imagine. They never do what you want them to do; they never grab the happiness that suggests itself to them. They are deeply flawed, scarred by their memories in ways that can never be repaired, and Giordano never forgets this. He never betrays the authenticity of his miserable characters to satisfy his readers and I think that his book is the better for it.

The Solitude of Prime Numbers is not an easy, comfortable read then, but its rewards are many. The characters are real and compelling, the prose is elegant and you'll itch to know what becomes of Alice and Mattia. Theirs is, at heart, a love story, though it must be the least traditional love story ever told. It is a love story about people who are fundamentally unfit for love and in this it is genuinely original. There's nothing uplifting about this book - read it on a down day and you'll probably feel like giving up altogether - but it is beautiful in the accuracy of its portrayal of the human condition. For this reason, I think it is deservedly a best-seller. An epic début from a surprisingly youthful author, The Solitude of Prime Numbers is an insightful and unsettling read, well worth a spot on the bookshelf.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might also like The Concert Ticket by Olga Grushin.

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Buy The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano at


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