Call Me by Your Name – summer vibes and apricots (book review)

With the arrival of July, the question becomes pressing: what should you read while lying on the shores of Lake Balaton, sunbathing on the balcony of a panel apartment or sweating on a MÁV* train (hopefully on your way to Lake Velence)? 

André Aciman’s novel titled Call Me by Your Name was published in 2007 and if you haven’t had a chance to read it since then now would be the perfect time for it. 

A film adaptation of the novel premiered in 2017, directed by Luca Guadagnino, starring Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer. The movie became a huge success; it won a total of 95 awards out of 260 nominations, one of which was an Oscar award in the category of best adapted screenplay.

A sequel to the novel written by André Aciman, titled Find Me, was released in 2019.

Later! – The word, the voice, the attitude.”

The protagonist of the story, Elio, is a 17-year-old adolescent boy who spends the hottest months of the year at his family’s seaside vacation home. There isn’t much to do on the Italian Riviera in the 1980s except to bathe, drink lemonade, play volleyball, munch on apricots, and enjoy the company of a young American researcher who is hosted by Elio’s art historian father to help with his research. Although someone comes to visit them every summer, this year’s visitor is quite special: Oliver ignites a fire in Eliot that he has never experienced before, and he becomes the most powerful torment and the most overwhelming passion of the adolescent boy at the same time.

And why is this story the perfect choice for this summer? Let’s see!

Creating the perfect summer feeling

Italy. Summer. The noise of the cicadas in the early afternoon.”

Although it is only a novel, readers can almost feel that they are spending time in Italy, too. When Elio and Oliver get on their bikes, the readers ride with them and they sunbathe by the pool with them, spend family dinners on the porch with them, admire the blueness of the sea from the secret small narrow peninsula where Monet also painted, listen to the cicadas with them and they slow down with them. The story is in no rush at all to unfold, as if time has stopped right there in that hot summer moment.

Covering the topic of discovering and experiencing sexuality

Is it better to speak or die?”

Being a real coming-of-age story, it doesn’t just depict sex itself, but also tells about Elio’s awakening desires, the inner contradiction he feels within himself, and the suffering that accompanies him during the discovery of his own sexuality. Although the novel deals with all this quite openly, you may find veiled references. Perhaps the most striking of them is the peach symbol which gains more and more importance as the plot progresses.

Providing an authentic picture of gayness and the struggle with homophobia

Tell Oliver. There is no one else to tell, Oliver, so I’m afraid it’s going to have to be you…”

In the story, Elio is bisexual, so in charting his romantic feelings, he is helped not only by Oliver, but also by a local Italian girl, Marzia. You can see how Elio copes with these feelings, how his relationship with Oliver is trapped between barriers that may only exist in his own head, and how both boys carefully examine their surroundings and themselves. What will the town think, what will Oliver think, and what does Elio himself think about what is happening in his own soul?

Daring to be proud 

My room. His room. Our balcony that shut the whole world out.” 

Elio finds not only love, but also a role model in Oliver. Oliver is proud of his Jewish religion and does not shy away from his emotions. Elio finally finds someone who is just like him, because no one in the small Italian town is quite like him. Still, Oliver is wiser and more experienced, and mostly he is himself.

So Call Me by Your Name is a perfect choice for this summer in case you are looking for an engaging novel: it tells us about love, the search for identity, Italy, and the summer that is not in a hurry.

*[the Hungarian State Railways Company]


Translated by Emese Balog

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