Merrimon Book Reviews

Archimedes Thoughtful by Fetti (1620)

An infinitude of prime numbers exists, as demonstrated by Euclid (ca 300 BC)

From Merrimon Book Reviews
The Solitude of Prime Numbers
The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giodano
by Paolo Giodano

Alice and Mattia each seem alone, isolated from others by the inner pain that quietly eats away at them.  The loss of his twin, a loss for which he feels responsible, puts Mattia at odds with the world outside himself.  Before the loss of his twin, Mattia was gifted mathematically, but now numbers become his refuge as well.  Alice dreads the skiing, a sport her father encourages.  Each trip, she prepares herself with a ritual so that she will not be embarrassed in front of the other kids, but one day her embarrassment causes her to escape the group rather than rely on them.  While fleeing the group, Alice has a skiing accident that leaves her with permanent scars.  Both Mattia and Alice live in worlds alienated from their teenage peers but their shared isolation brings them together.  When Mattia accepts a research position, the two become separated.  Mattia later returns, but will their friendship connect them like it once did?  Time changes friendship, alienation and the inner solitude, yet the essential elements, though transformed, remain. 

In his brilliant debut novel THE SOLITUDE OF PRIME NUMBERS, Paolo Giodino captures the pain and alienation of adolescence.  Although most individual readers probably have not experienced the exact circumstances or psychological manifestations of the characters, Paolo Giodino creates characters with whom readers can relate in the initial pages with his vivid descriptions of the adolescent social structure and the insecurities of those that do not fit within the popular group.  As the novel progresses, revealing the depth of their solitude and pain, one experiences their pain and isolation from an insider's point of view rather than as someone looking in from the outside.  One wants them to succeed.  One wants them to break through their isolation and find wholeness and yet we, as readers, like Alice and Mattia, can never truly be the insider into another.  "A prime number can only be divided by itself or by one --- it never truly fits with another."  Will these lost, troubled souls ever truly connect?

THE SOLITUDE OF PRIME NUMBERS is a stunning, unforgettable novel with unforgettable characters that uses mathematical language to create a poetic view of solitude and friendship, of isolation and human closeness. 
Paolo Giodino draws the reader into the pain and tragedy experienced by his characters, not with psychological buzzwords and diagnosis deatails about anorexia or any of the other manifestations but rather by making the reader feel the psychological and poetic truth within his characters.  If you are looking for a happy, feel-good novel, look elsewhere.  If, on the other hand, you are looking for a novel that will make you feel, see and think in new ways, THE SOLITUDE OF PRIME NUMBERS is a novel that stands out among many for its vision of the misfit's inner pain, alienation, closeness and solitude.  Despite the tragic events and emotions surrounding the characters, THE SOLITUDE OF PRIME NUMBERS has a poetic beauty about it that lives on long after the last page.

Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books (March 18, 2010)

Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews
Review Courtesy of Amazon Vine
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