03 June 2010

Review: The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano

By the time Alice and Mattia meet each other as teens, they are damaged goods, each having suffered a childhood trauma. They are alone, and in that aloneness they make a pair. As they reach young adulthood, their paths are unique yet constrained by parallel problems. When Mattia is offered a job across the continent, he and Alice find themselves once again facing the world alone.

In The Solitude of Prime Numbers, Paolo Giordano explores the other worldliness of being different, the eeriness of having parents who don't know how to nurture, the meanness of teenagers, and the confusion of awaking sexuality. When quite young, Mattia and Alice each made a single decision that led to a disastrous result. As a consequence, they seem to live in reaction to what others think and become swept away by circumstances, not truly making conscious choices and not fully engaging in relationships. Even their friendship was one they stumbled into, or perhaps were tricked into.

After Mattia moves away, they find themselves in limbo: neither disentangling themselves from each other nor weaving their lives with the threads of those around them. Are their dreams of each other based in reality, familiarity, possibility, or expectation? What would happen if they saw each other again?

Giordano, a physicist, uses two principal symbols throughout the book. First are the concepts of prime and twin prime numbers, which explain, or perhaps solidify, Mattia and Alice's lives and relationship. The math is not heavy handed but adds to the mood of the novel. As the book jacket reminds us, a prime number can be divided only by itself or by one, and that is exactly what happens to Mattia and Alice.

Another recurring symbol is water: as snow, as fog, as river, as ocean. Mattia and Alice each experience water in its many manifestations and come to know how it harms and heals, creates anxiety and soothes.

Despite the sometimes painful journey, the novel ends with hope.

Although I received a review copy of the book, I opted to listen to the audio edition, produced by Brilliance Audio and read by Luke Daniels. I did not have trouble listening to Daniels, but I am not sure he was right match for The Solitude of Prime Numbers. I cannot pinpoint what bothered me, but perhaps it was the lack of strong emotion at some of the more intense moments. Unless you have a high tolerance for audiobooks, I suggest reading this book in print.

The Solitude of Prime Numbers at Powell's
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Published by Viking/Pamela Dorman Books, 2010
ISBN-13: 9780670021482
Challenges: Audiobook, New Author, Support Your Library, 100+
YTD: 46
Source: Review and borrowed (see review policy)
Rating: A-


Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 6/3/10, 11:51 AM  

Oh, your review will prompt me to pull this off my TBR stack and move it to the toppling pile on the bedside table :). I have the print edition, so I don't have to worry about a narration that doesn't quite "fit" the book.

I'm wondering how Mattia and Alice were tricked into a friendship ... that's an interesting start!

Nise' 6/3/10, 1:19 PM  

I judged this book by it's cover at the library, but after reading your review I will be checking it out.

Julie P. 6/3/10, 1:33 PM  

This one looks great! I'm sorry that the audio didn't work for you!

S. Krishna 6/3/10, 2:02 PM  

I didn't know what this one was about, but now that I've read your review it sounds really interesting. I'll stay away from the audio though.

Sandy Nawrot 6/3/10, 3:45 PM  

You are right, that narrator didn't do much for the story! And yes, the prime and twin prime analogy was clever, but you liked this book so much more than I. The only things I could think of to say that were positive were that the writing was very beautiful, and the author is hot!

Andi 6/3/10, 4:01 PM  

I'm an admitted cover whore, and I really love this one. Luckily, the premise seems up to par with the cover.

Marie 6/3/10, 5:49 PM  

Nice review. I'm putting this one on my wishlist. I love the cover too.

Melody 6/3/10, 8:40 PM  

Great review! I've this book in my pile and after reading your review I need to move it up my pile.

Mystica 6/3/10, 8:50 PM  

I also did not know what this was all about so thanks for the review. Great review.

Unknown 6/4/10, 3:54 AM  

You enjoyed this a lot more than I did too. I thought it was a reasonable, light thriller, but I wasn't a fan of the numbers and thought they detracted from the story.

Anonymous,  6/4/10, 10:13 AM  

I've got this book on my TBR and it's always nice to read a positive review.

My Friday post: http://leeswammes.wordpress.com

Ana S. 6/4/10, 7:03 PM  

I've seen some mixed reviews of this book, but I think I'd quite enjoy it. It sounds sad and lonely but not bleak, which I like a lot.

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