Summary and book reviews of Three O'Clock in the Morning by Gianrico Carofiglio

Three O'Clock in the Morning

A Novel

by Gianrico Carofiglio

Three O'Clock in the Morning by Gianrico Carofiglio X
Three O'Clock in the Morning by Gianrico Carofiglio
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  • Published:
    Mar 2021, 192 pages

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Book Summary

A coming-of-age novel—a heady union of Before Sunrise and Beautiful Ruins—about a father and his teenage son who are forced to spend two sleepless nights exploring the city of Marseilles, a journey of unexpected adventure and profound discovery that helps them come to truly know each other.

Antonio is eighteen years old and on the cusp of adulthood. His father, a brilliant mathematician, hasn't played a large part in his life since divorcing Antonio's mother but when Antonio is diagnosed with epilepsy, they travel to Marseille to visit a doctor who may hold the hope for an effective treatment. It is there, in a foreign city, under strained circumstances, that they will get to know each other and connect for the first time.

A beautiful, gritty, and charming port city where French old-world charm meets modern bohemia, father and son stroll the streets sharing strained small talk. But as the hours pass and day gives way to night, the two find themselves caught in a series of caffeine-imbued adventures involving unexpected people (and unforeseen trysts) that connect father and son for the first time. As the two discuss poetry, family, sex, math, death, and dreams, their experience becomes a mesmerizing 48-hour microcosm of a lifetime relationship. Both learn much about illusions and regret, about talent and redemption, and, most of all, about love.

Elegant, warm, and tender, set against the vivid backdrop of 1980s Marseille and its beautiful calanques—a series of cliffs and bays on the city's outskirts—Three O'Clock in the Morning is a bewitching coming-of-age story imbued with nostalgia and a revelatory exploration of time and fate, youth and adulthood.

1

I can't say when it started. Maybe I was seven, maybe a little older, I don't remember exactly. When you're a child, it's not clear to you what's normal and what isn't. Come to think of it, it's not all that clear when you're an adult either.

About once a month, something strange and rather distressing would happen to me. Without warning, I would notice an absence, a feeling of detachment from the world around me, yet at the same time, my senses would become more acute.

Usually, we select the stimuli that come to us from the outside world. We are surrounded by sounds, smells, all kinds of visible entities. But we aren't objective; we don't hear everything that bounces off our eardrums, we don't smell everything that reaches our nose, we don't see everything that hits our retinas. The brain decides which perceptions to become aware of, which information to register.

All the rest stays out; we are accustomed to excluding details, and yet it's all there. If we wanted to notice all of it, ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Booklist
Antonio tells the story in his own unadorned first-person voice from his perspective as a 51-year-old adult, a fact that adds wisdom to this absorbing novel of filial bonding.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
[S]ubtle precision informs every page, as does a deceptive simplicity...[and] shimmering, unforced beauty. A journey by foot: crisp, lean, yet quietly mournful.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[P]oignant and moving...Antonio's catalog of intimate experiences, whether painful, pleasurable, or bittersweet, make for an enchanting coming-of-age tale.

La Repubblica (Italy)
A coming-of-age journey that is as rational as it is touching, and that builds up some crucial symbolisms in the reflections of a beautiful dryness.

Il fatto quotidiano (Italy)
One of those novels for which you feel sorry in the last pages, when reading slows down to ward off the final word.

Author Blurb Christopher Castellani, author of Leading Men
Reading this wondrous book is like wandering the streets of a bewitching foreign city, highly attuned to its pleasures and tensions, thrilled by its freedom and possibility. I was deeply moved by its tenderness, its honesty, and, most of all, by the unlikely journey father and son take to discover each other as if for the first time. Carofiglio is a master of voice and atmosphere, which gives this elegiac novel its satisfying and emotional punch.

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