A coming-of-age story, a coming-out story, a Proustian meditation on time and desire, a love letter, an invocation and something of an epitaph, Call Me by Your Name is also an open question … In a first novel that abounds in moments of emotional and physical abandon, this may be the most wanton of his moves: his narrative, brazenly, refuses to stay closed. It is as much a story of paradise found as it is of paradise lost … What unwinds the men from each other’s embrace is none of these clichés; instead, Aciman, Proustian to the core, moves them apart, renders their beautiful city Atlantis, with the subtlest, most powerful universal agent: time.
Like so many classic love stories, this one unfolds with the suspense of a thriller. Will Elio's passion ever be reciprocated by the one he worships? If it is, will they leap over fear and taboo to consummate their desire? And if they do, will they be exhilarated or repelled by that consummation? They have only six weeks to find out … The book is explicit without ever being prurient, and the feelings the narrator describes are both homoerotic and universal … The beauty of Aciman's writing and the purity of his passions should place this extraordinary first novel within the canon of great romantic love stories for everyone.
The debut novel of the Egyptian-born memoirist and literary scholar Andre Aciman is a coming-of-age story focused not so much on sexual awakening as on a kind of sexual quickening and identity exploration unfurled through poetic ruminations on longing and obsession … Aciman deftly charts a burgeoning relationship that both parties want and fear. Elio's crush blooms quickly, while Oliver seems to toy with his affections, friendly and engaging one moment, indifferent, even hostile the next. But over the course of a short six weeks, a tentative friendship blossoms, and undercurrents of romantic fascination and compulsion gradually evolve into a brief, yet intensely shared intimacy.
...a tender-tough story of headlong love and awkward timing that reads a little like a highbrow cosmopolitan variation on Brokeback Mountain … Within the highly eroticized compartment Elio and Oliver explore together, identities are shattered and connection is complete. But there are always other compartments to return to, at least in Oliver's mind, each with its own demands. And therein lies the problem. With its radiant yet shadowed air of nostalgia, Call Me By Your Name is reminiscent of — though far more sexually overt than — L.P. Hartley's The Go-Between. It pays conscious homage, with its identity-melding passions, to Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights. It's a great love story, whether you're gay or straight...Like Brokeback, it's about having happiness in hand yet somehow being powerless to hang onto it.
Perhaps what most firmly links Elio to Oliver is their shared Judaism. We never learn how Elio's Jewish family came to reside in a small Italian village (their Italian is perfect, but there is still a sense that this was a migration, that they had arrived here from somewhere else), but Oliver is the first person Elio has encountered who wears his Star of David proudly around his neck. Elio grows to believe that an intimacy between the two would be almost a holy union, while a separation would be ‘galut’, the Hebrew word for exile and dispersal … The novel is told in retrospect; while most of the events take place over the course of a summer, this is the story of a man remembering an important moment in his past. Aciman carries the reader along by the fury of his language, tightly focusing on the all-consuming nature of love.
The term ‘falls in love,’ I realize, is not quite right. ‘Becomes sexually obsessed’ is more accurate. Yet what happens between Elio and Oliver seems to fit neither category precisely, though sexual obsession certainly figures in, as does a kind of transforming symbiotic affection. The novel is really about lust – specifically the hyper-lust of an imaginative and questing 17-year-old – the kind that can make one want to lose oneself in a lover. In the complicated gyrations of flirtation that precede seduction, Aciman mines his story for deeper revelations about longing and identity … Gradually, in scenes infused with the languor and sensuousness of the novel's Mediterranean setting, Oliver and Elio consummate their attraction. It gives away nothing to reveal this, because from the beginning, the reader understands this will happen. The tension in the story is in the pursuit, not the eventual conquest.
Call Me by Your Name is a meditation on the tenuous and sometimes evanescent underpinnings of desire, almost irrespective of its object … Probably all loves appear to be unique from the inside. It is a challenge for any writer to convey ardor without risking silliness, but Aciman balances Elio well on his psychic precipice … Descriptions of sexual acts in Call Me by Your Name tend to be direct and not elliptical (one scene involving a piece of food might remind some of Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint) but are far from prurient, and while they loom large to Elio in a psychological sense, they do not occupy much of the novel.
...an extraordinary examination of longing and the complicated ways in which we negotiate the experience of attraction. Aciman is fascinated by psychological nuance: the ways we express desire, or try not to, and our elaborate attempts to read the expressions of others. Elio and Oliver make their way through weeks of avoidance toward an intimacy that will be the most profound one of their lives … It's startling that a novel so bracingly unsentimental—alert to the ways we manipulate, second-guess, forestall, and finally reach stumblingly toward one another—concludes with such emotional depths, as two people look back on a lost connection with both pleasure and regret.
The young men loll about in bathing suits, play tennis, jog along the Italian Riviera and flirt. Both also flirt (and more) with women among their circle of friends, but Elio, who narrates, yearns for Oliver. Their shared literary interests and Jewishness help impart a sense of intimacy, and when they do consummate their passion in Oliver's room, they call each other by the other's name … Aciman overcomes an occasionally awkward structure with elegant writing in Elio's sweet and sanguine voice.
Graceful debut novel by memoirist/literary scholar Aciman, joining young love to his familiar themes of dislocation and wandering … Possibilities worthy of Highsmith loom, but though Oliver has his dangerous side (for one thing, he’s a cardsharp), Aciman never quite dispenses with innocence; Elio’s love has a certain chaste quality to it, which doesn’t lessen the hurt when the whole thing unravels, at which point intellectual gamesmanship fades away … A quiet, literate and impeccably written love story.