Arts in Review

Book Review: The Solitude of Prime Numbers

The Solitude of Prime Numbers is a hauntingly beautiful story about two lost souls searching for happiness. The main characters Alice and Mattia are both scarred (mentally and physically) from childhood traumas, and when the two meet as teenagers, they recognize in each other a kindred, damaged spirit. The Solitude of Prime Numbers is the debut novel of Italian physicist Paolo Giordano, and with this novel he has put his name on the literary map – he is also the youngest-ever winner of Italy’s literary award.

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by Brittany Wiesner (Staff Writer)

The Solitude of Prime Numbers is a hauntingly beautiful story about two lost souls searching for happiness. The main characters Alice and Mattia are both scarred (mentally and physically) from childhood traumas, and when the two meet as teenagers, they recognize in each other a kindred, damaged spirit. The Solitude of Prime Numbers is the debut novel of Italian physicist Paolo Giordano, and with this novel he has put his name on the literary map – he is also the youngest-ever winner of Italy’s literary award.

The novel is unique for its content and in the way it’s written. Giordano has a unique style, giving the most important facts but abstaining from over describing them; a style which leaves the reader trying to comprehend the story as it unfolds. Granted, sometimes you’re left wondering, and in this case there are hints there to help.

Both Alice and Mattia are damaged beyond repair; their lives completely altered by childhood events, yet they find each other and stick together throughout their adolescent years. They have trouble trying to become friends with other classmates and instead find solace in each other; even staying close during university and the troubling times those years hold. It isn’t until Mattia takes a mathematical grant thousands of miles away that trouble begins. Neither Mattia or Alice are able to say how they truly feel, and it isn’t until they’re gone and their pasts catch up with them that they’re able to realize what their friendship truly meant.

The question the novel raises is can two prime numbers find a way to be together? Can they as lonely individuals truly admit their love and stay together? Can anyone who has suffered loss and trauma at a young age be able to integrate him or herself into society and find love and happiness at a later age?

The description of the isolation both Mattia and Alice feel is achingly vivid, giving the reader a harsh sense of loneliness. The families who surround both Alice and Mattia are unable to touch the walls they have built, but they let each other in, even if only slightly, and see that there might be a light in the dark tunnel ahead.

The novel is unique and amazing in its directness and ability to showcase the genuine pain and beauty of human emotions, especially those of children. The novel showcases the way a childhood event alters who the child becomes. Their nightmares creep into reality and change them for better or worse. It’s a sad idea, and Giordano handles it gracefully. He is able to bring the reader into a world entirely of Alice and Mattia’s own design.

The Solitude of Prime Numbers is a stunning mediation on loneliness, love and the weight of childhood experience. After reading this novel you’ll be overcome with grief and happiness for the characters. It’s an experience you can’t pass up and one seldom felt in the novels of our time.

This is a book for our generation.

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