Title: Call Me By Your Name
Author: André Aciman
Published in 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Genre: general fiction
Rating: ★ – absolutely hated it
Call Me by Your Name is the story of a sudden and powerful romance that blossoms between an adolescent boy and a summer guest at his parents’ cliff-side mansion on the Italian Riviera. Unprepared for the consequences of their attraction, at first each feigns indifference. But during the restless summer weeks that follow, unrelenting buried currents of obsession and fear, fascination and desire, intensify their passion as they test the charged ground between them. What grows from the depths of their spirits is a romance of scarcely six weeks’ duration and an experience that marks them for a lifetime. For what the two discover on the Riviera and during a sultry evening in Rome is the one thing both already fear they may never truly find again: total intimacy.
This book has an average rating of 4.28 on Goodreads, and for the life of me I can’t figure out why. The entire time I was reading this, I only had the following thoughts running through my mind: ew, what the fuck?, someone save me, this is so dramatic. The predominant feeling was definitely ‘what the fuck did I just read’. I needed to cleanse my eyeballs, my soul, and my ears after finishing this.
Let me start by saying that I did watch the movie when it came out, and absolutely loved it. While it does have some iffy moments, I adored Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer’s rendition of this story. As it stands, one of the only things that made me finish the actual book is that the audiobook is narrated by Armie Hammer, who has an incredibly wonderful voice. If you do decide you want to read this after finishing my review, I’d suggest going the audiobook route.
Let’s get on to why I intensely disliked this book. Are you ready?
It’s incredibly boring. The whole novel is Elio talking about his obsession with Oliver, and describing his body through the use of 4234897 metaphors. Oh, and thinking about dicks and sex every 3 sentences. I’m not kidding. I can’t tell you how many times I read the word cock in the span of one novel. Before anyone comes for me, I’m not opposed to sex in novels AT ALL. I have read quite a lot of smutty romance and fanfiction. But this? No. Back to the boring part. Like I said, it’s just Elio talking about all the ways he’s creepily obsessed with every single word Oliver says and every movement he makes. Then he makes 3423 assumptions based on said words or movements, which all turn out to be untrue. There’s no plot whatsoever here. None.
Even though it’s entirely about Elio’s obsession with Oliver, you don’t actually know anything about the characters by the end. All you know is that Oliver is a PhD student and a professor at Columbia, that he has different color bathing suits, that he plays poker, and that he enjoys saying ‘Later’ as a greeting. I know even less about Elio, just that he likes to read, transcribe music, and play piano. That’s it. If there is no plot, and no actual character depth, then what am I reading this book for?
The writing. Why are these sentences so long and convoluted? By the time I’ve gotten to the last part of sentence, I’ve already forgotten how it started. It also made it much harder to comprehend, and gave me a headache at times.
The “romantic” scenes and sex scenes made me want to die. Seriously. How on Earth did anyone think any of this stuff is attractive or sexy? WHAT. IS. GOING. ON?? To illustrate my point, here are some of my favorite – please detect the sarcasm here – parts.
It would never have occurred to him that in placing the apricot in my palm he was giving me his ass to hold or that, in biting the fruit, I was also biting into that part of his body that must have been fairer than the rest because it never apricated – and near it, if I dared to bite that far, his apricock.
WHAT. THE. FUCK. I don’t even know where to start with that one. Actually, I do. Apricock?? Really?? Glossing over that word that really should have never been brought into existence, I want to remind you that Elio just fantasized about biting a dick. Sounds… not sexy at all. To me, at least.
If you thought you were rid of the apricock, think again because not much further into the story we get this gem.
All I kept thinking of was apricock precock, precock apricock.
If you have no idea what that means, don’t worry. Neither do I.
After the author was done ruining apricots for me, he then moved on to peaches. Yes, thanks to the movie I was already aware of the really weird scene in which Elio masturbates into a peach and Oliver then eats it. What really got to me though, was hearing Elio describe the piece of fruit.
The bruised and damaged peach, like a rape victim, lay on its side on my desk, shamed, loyal, aching, and confused, struggling not to spill what I’d left inside.
Once again, what the fuck. Like a rape victim. Really? REALLY??
Aside from that disgusting comparison, here’s another passage where Elio is thinking about kissing Oliver. I didn’t even realize it was possible to make kissing sound so unattractive, but fortunately for us this author found a way.
I wanted him to remember the morning on Monet’s berm when I’d kissed him not the first but the second time and given him my spit in his mouth because I so desperately wanted his in mine.
That’s so gross. I really can’t.
Onto the next scene that will put you off romance FOREVER, shall we? I’m aware that I’m ruining your day, but I suffered through this so you don’t have to, okay?
We had never even been in the same bathroom together. “Don’t flush,” I’d said, “I want to look.” What I saw brought out strains of compassion, for him, for his body, for his life, which suddenly seemed so frail and vulnerable. “Our bodies won’t have secrets now,” I said as I took my turn and sat down. He had hopped into the bathtub and was just about to turn on the shower. “I want you to see mine,” I said. He did more. He stepped out, kissed me on the mouth, and, pressing and massaging my tummy with the flat of his palm, watched the whole thing happen.
I needed to bleach my ears and eyeballs after this scene. I’m okay with some secrets. I DON’T WANT THIS. WHAT IS THIS.
I don’t even want to get into the pages where Elio became obsessed with Oliver’s toes. I’d like to erase those from my mind immediately.
The frankly disturbing stuff. Aside from the horrible attempts at describing sex and romance, there were some scenes that really left me disgusted as a human being. One of those examples was comparing the peach to a rape victim. There were many others, but I only noted down the following one.
If I didn’t kill him, then I’d cripple him for life, so that he’d be with us in a wheelchair and never go back to the States. If he were in a wheelchair, I would always know where he was, and he’d be easy to find. I would feel superior to him and become his master, now that he was crippled.
I’m sorry, can we back the hell up and talk about what the fuck I just read? Be his master? Be superior? WHAT?? This is so messed up, and I can’t even comprehend how someone wrote this paragraph and thought it was okay, and how this managed to pass through edits.
I’m not kidding when I say that I was pulling a face the entire time I was reading this book. My mom thought I was having pain from my wisdom teeth removal when in all honesty, I was in physical pain because I had to go through this reading experience. My wonderful lovely friends were horrified when I shared some of the above quotes, and advised me to DNF immediately. Honestly, how does this book have a 4.28 average rating on Goodreads? How? I didn’t like anything. I didn’t enjoy the writing style, the characters, the plot (there was none), or the romance.
For the first time in a while, I will advise you to watch the movie and skip the book. I know, blasphemy! Trust me. I did enjoy the movie, I truly loved it. In my opinion, the adaptation was a much better story than the original book. Watch the movie. Forget this ever existed. I’ll try to do the same.