The Solitude of Prime Numbers, by Paolo Giordano. #BookReview.


Translated from the original Italian, this melancholy novel captures the nuance and subtlety that can so strongly influence a young mind. The wrong thing said, the poor choice made, the misunderstanding never fully comprehended until much later, all act as controllers in the lives of those still forming.

This is the story of two young people with different but equally formative childhood experiences that dominate their years of development. Brought into contact by circumstance, their individual influences both propel them together and tear them apart. A story of coming of age for an unusual girl and a bright boy. Isolated by their pasts, they find something inexpressible in their similarities that should have potential for a shared future.

The main characters are skilfully drawn as they slide and stutter through childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. Always ‘other’ and existing in worlds in which they fail to fit, they endure rather than live. The other players, surrounding this pair, are equally well observed and conveyed.

This book is intensely sad in parts and melancholy pervades the whole story. All those ‘what ifs’ rise to the surface as the reader shares the protagonists’ doubts, anxieties, mistakes and occasional triumphs amongst the bullying of peers and indifference of parents.

It’s a compelling but haunting read, thoughtful and even desolate in parts. Not a work to be enjoyed, but certainly a novel to read for its captivating style and superb depiction of otherness.

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