Aciman (Eight White Nights, 2010, etc.) picks up the storyline of his best-known novel to trace the lives of its actors 20 years on.
In Aciman’s breakthrough novel, Call Me By Your Name, the young protagonist, Elio, is reassured by his father that there’s no wrong or shame in loving another man—in this instance, a visiting American named Oliver. In this sequel, Sami, the father, is the man freshly in love, 10 years later. Southbound for Rome on a train that takes forever to arrive, he falls into easy, sometimes-teasing conversation with young Miranda, who cuts to the chase after a few dozen pages by saying, “When was the last time you were with a girl my age who’s not exactly ugly and who is desperately trying to tell you something that should have been quite obvious by now." Indeed, and love blossoms, complete with intellectual repartee with Miranda’s bookish, sophisticated father. Fathers indeed loom large in Aciman’s tale: Though sometimes far from the scene, they reverberate, as with the father of Michel, an older man to whom Elio becomes attached in the second part of the novel. Does he miss his late father, Elio asks, to which Michel replies, “Miss him? Not really. Maybe because, unlike my mother who died eight years ago, he never really died for me. He’s just absent.” Of a philosophical bent, Michel ponders wisely on the differences between his younger and older selves, prompting Elio to recall his one great love. Somehow, perhaps not entirely believably, Oliver, well established back home in the States, receives that brainwave (“It’s me, isn’t it, it’s me you’re looking for…”), for, with quiet regrets, he ends a long marriage and makes his way back into the past—the future, that is—to find Elio once again. Aciman blends assuredly mature themes with deep learning in which the likes of Bach and Cavafy and several languages grace the proceedings, and his story is touching without being sentimental even if some of it is too neatly inevitable.
An elegant, memorable story of enduring love across the generations.