MLA Platinum Award Press Release

BookBrowse Reviews The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Solitude of Prime Numbers

A Novel

by Paolo Giordano

The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano X
The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2010, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2011, 288 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Beverly Melven
Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


An international bestseller by an Italian physicist, this debut novel follows the singular connection between two misfits

Those who have an interest in psychology - we who are obsessed with why people do the things they do, all the inner workings of humans - will find much to like here. Virtually all of this book happens inside someone's head (mostly Alice and Mattia, but we do get a glimpse of parents and other characters). The tiny instances that become founding principles in a person's actions; the thoughtless word or action that ruins a relationship - these things are laid bare in the lives of two children as they grow to adulthood. I completely forgot that the story was set in Italy until more than halfway through the book. Maybe that's an artifact of the translation, but I don't believe so. There is little exterior detail and an abundance of interior landscape to be explored.

It took me until the third chapter to really warm up to this book. Not because the writing isn't great, or the characters are unsympathetic - neither is true. I think the real reason is because Paulo Giordano is so successful at placing us inside the heads of these solitary characters, and they just do not connect well with others. This is not to say that we can't understand them, or see ourselves in their pain and struggle. But this book is an argument for the idea that no one can every truly know another person. Regardless of how close you are and how much history you share, in the end, each one of us lives inside our own head, not out in the world. Alice and Mattia are just the tiniest bit more alone than the rest of us, and the results are striking. Each is unable to move beyond the impersonal cruelties of childhood, building their personalities around the pain and walling out the rest of the world in the process. When they meet as adolescents, they are drawn to each other because each allows the other to stay safe behind their barriers while deriving some comfort from the quiet companionship.

The metaphor of prime numbers is quite effective. Mattia finds solace in math, and not much else. He thinks of himself and Alice as 'paired primes,' a phenomenon where two primes are separated by only one number. Prime numbers (except 2 and 3) are never found next to one another, but they sometimes appear in these pairs. He has even chosen two primes to represent himself and Alice - two strange beings, surrounded by regular people and linked by some mysterious agency no one can explain.

One of the things I like best about The Solitude of Prime Numbers is how much importance Giordano places on tiny moments and choices in life. Several times, the characters have to make a choice - usually a small choice with huge consequences. In each case the character is fully aware of what the choices are, how the outcome will impact their own future, and what the 'correct' choice is. And each time, that tiny choice is almost impossible to make; we know what the world expects, we often know what we want for our future, but that rarely means we will make the right choice when it presents itself. To me, it seems that Alice and Mattia set themselves on a path when they were very young, and regardless of how much pain and loneliness they endure, they are loath to change course.

This book is not a fairy tale, so there is no happy ending wrapped up in a bow. What we get is an ending worthy of the story, with hope for those willing to make a different choice. The book is not long or complicated, but once I started liking these people, I was pulled along by the desire to see them let just one person truly know them.

Reviewed by Beverly Melven

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in March 2010, and has been updated for the April 2011 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Join Now!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Delayed Rays of a Star
    by Amanda Lee Koe
    Amanda Lee Koe's Delayed Rays of a Star begins with a late-1920s photo of three women at a party in ...
  • Book Jacket: Sleepovers
    Sleepovers
    by Ashleigh Bryant Phillips
    In Ashleigh Bryant Phillips' debut story collection, Sleepovers, it can be difficult to keep tabs on...
  • Book Jacket
    The Beekeeper of Aleppo
    by Christy Lefteri
    In Christy Lefteri's sophomore novel, The Beekeeper of Aleppo, the author introduces readers to ...
  • Book Jacket
    Cantoras
    by Carolina De Robertis
    Cantoras by Carolina De Robertis follows five characters who share a house, troubles, joys and parts...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Voyage of the Morning Light
    by Marina Endicott

    A sweeping novel set aboard a merchant ship sailing through the South Pacific in 1912.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Beekeeper of Aleppo
by Christy Lefteri

This moving, intimate, and beautifully written novel puts human faces on the Syrian war.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Of Bears and Ballots

An Alaskan Adventure in Small-Town Politics

A charming account of holding local office with an entertaining, quirky cast of characters.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

A S Louder T W

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.