The Solitude of Prime Numbers: A Novel

( 63 )

Overview

A bestselling international literary sensation about whether a "prime number" can ever truly connect with someone else

A prime number can only be divided by itself or by one—it never truly fits with another. Alice and Mattia, both "primes," are misfits who seem destined to be alone. Haunted by childhood tragedies that mark their lives, they cannot reach out to anyone else. When Alice and Mattia meet as teenagers, they recognize in each other a ...

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The Solitude of Prime Numbers

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Overview

A bestselling international literary sensation about whether a "prime number" can ever truly connect with someone else

A prime number can only be divided by itself or by one—it never truly fits with another. Alice and Mattia, both "primes," are misfits who seem destined to be alone. Haunted by childhood tragedies that mark their lives, they cannot reach out to anyone else. When Alice and Mattia meet as teenagers, they recognize in each other a kindred, damaged spirit.

But the mathematically gifted Mattia accepts a research position that takes him thousands of miles away, and the two are forced to separate. Then a chance occurrence reunites them and forces a lifetime of concealed emotion to the surface.

Like Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, this is a stunning meditation on loneliness, love, and the weight of childhood experience that is set to become a universal classic.

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
"A mesmerizing portrait of a young man and woman whose injured natures draw them together over the years and inevitably pull them apart. Mr. Giordano remarkably and movingly portrays the hesitant groping toward warmth that works beneath the pair's emotional disabilities. The author works with piercing subtlety. An exquisite rendering of what one might call feelings at the subatomic level."
-Richard Eder for The New York Times

"The melancholy that hangs over The Solitude of Prime Numbers is seductive and unnerving. A-."
-Entertainment Weekly

"Giordano's passionate evocation of being young and in despair will resonate strongly with readers."
-USA Today

"The elegant and fiercely intelligent debut novel by 27-year-old physicist Paolo Giordano, The Solitude of Prime Numbers revolves around Mattia and Alice, friends since high school-'twin primes, alone and lost, close but not close enough to really touch each other,' wherein resides the seductive enchantment of this singular love story."
-Elle

"This compelling debut shows a remarkable sensitivity and maturity in the depiction of its damaged soulmates. A fragile, unconventional love story by a talent to watch."
-Kirkus

"A deeply touching debut. Beautiful and affecting...it reads easily, due in party to the almost seamless translation. An intimate psychological portrait of two 'prime numbers'-together alone and alone together."
-Booklist

"Surprising, intimate and deeply moving, The Solitude of Prime Numbers takes the readers on a hypnotic journey through an unexpected love affair. Paolo Giordano writes with grace and elegance of gentle but damaged characters, using inventive language to create a story unlike anything in recent fiction. This is everything a debut novel should be and leaves one longing for the books that will follow."
-John Boyne, author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

"Paul Giordano is an expert on loss and sorrow. He understands and reveals the hidden hollows of the heart. His story is a quiet one, but his strong writing and unforgettable characters make his book a page turner. The Solitude of Prime Numbers is sad, dark and perfect."
-Mary Pipher, author of Seeking Peace: Chronicles of the Worst Buddhist in the World

"What a shock to open a novel written by a young physicist in Italy and find myself there, on every page. No wonder Giordano's readers can be counted in the millions; this astute, aching contemplation of solitude has a power to make us all feel a little less alone. A love story told with astonishing perceptiveness and remarkable subtlety, The Solitude of Prime Numbers is an extraordinary affirmation of the reasons we read."
-Stefan Merrill Block, author of The Story of Forgetting

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143118596
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/29/2011
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 406,932
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Paolo Giordano is the author of the critically acclaimed international bestseller The Solitude of Prime Numbers, which has been translated into more than forty languages. He is the youngest person ever to win Italy's prestigious literary award, the Premio Strega. Giordano has a PhD in particle physics and is now a full time writer. He lives in Italy.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 63 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(18)

4 Star

(18)

3 Star

(16)

2 Star

(5)

1 Star

(6)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 63 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 20, 2010

    Gray day reading

    A pair of social outcasts (one an anorexic, the other a cutter) befriend each other in school, and the friendship continues through the rest of their broken lives. Loneliness permeates the book and leaves the reader with a sense of defeat akin to the characters'. A quick read and an interesting first novel, more of a character study than a story with a plot.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 18, 2010

    Character-driven fiction that is for literature lovers

    So, how does a 27-year old man working on a doctorate in particle physics write an achingly lovely book about loneliness, family, and alienation? By being a close observer of the human condition, and by writing prose that pulls you further into the book. (I've lost sleep over this book--the "only one more chapter" turned into several on more than one night.) Shaun Whiteside, Giordano's translator, deserves credit for the kind of translation that did not make me feel I was missing anything by not reading it in the original Italian.

    In some ways, I wish this was not a first novel, and I wish Giordano was older. Why? Because as his characters get older, and surpass Giordano's current age, something feels lost. The tremendous empathy with which he writes about his characters' adolescence made me, his reader, nod with recognition. But as his characters move further into their adulthood, part of the suspension of disbelief was broken for me--not all writers are able to write about a time of life that they have not experienced, and toward the end of the book, I felt the distance between Giordano and his characters widening.

    Okay. That's the major criticism. Let me tell you about the things that Giordano does well.

    This is character-driven literary fiction, which means that the plot is secondary to the development of the people of whom he writes. (Those of you looking for a "rippin' good yarn" would be best to skip this book.)

    Instead, it's the moments of subtle beauty--an emotion described in visceral terms, a scene painted in water-color language--that would catch the breath in my chest.

    Mattia is a twin brother to Michele, a little girl with mental disabilities. Mattia, shy and hyper-intelligent, is lonely. It's not that he's exactly "shunned" by his classmates, as much as he is avoided because he and Michele are seen as a package deal, (meaning that if you invite one to an event, you must invite the other. Thus, at the opening of the novel, Mattia has been in school for several years and has never been invited to a friend's birthday party.

    One day, one of his classmates finally breaks the taboo, and both children are invited to the party. But Mattia is torn. He knows that if Michele comes to the party, she will ruin Mattia's chances for ever being invited to another party, and so, Mattia makes a decision that forever changes his family's life. Left to live with the guilt of Michele's exit from the world, and, as if to make amends, Mattia finds ways to torment himself physically almost every day.

    Alice is the daughter of a pushy father who wants his girl to be a champion skiier. Unable to say no to her father, in an attempt to get out of competing one day, she wanders off the trail, shatters her leg, and the surgical attempts to rebuild her broken body leave her covered with scars. Having lost control of a hip and leg that don't perform correctly, Alice attempts to discipline her body through other means.

    Alice and Mattia, of course, become friends--or as close to friendship as each is capable of.

    For Alice and Mattia, the high school years were an open wound that had seemed so deep that it could never heal. They had passed through them without breathing, he rejecting the world and she feeling rejected by it, and eventually they had noticed that it didn't make all that much diffference. They had formed a defective and asymmetrical friendship, made up of long absences and much si

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 3, 2012

    This books expertly explores and examines its characters and their flaws.

    This wonderful book follows the lives of two uniquely different characters, Mattia and Alice, she’s anorexic, he’s a cutter. Tragic accidents, resulting from foolish decisions, Mattia’s own when he leaves his twin alone in a park and Alice’s own when she decides to ski down a mountain alone, in the fog, after being forced by her domineering father to participate in the sport, shape their lives. Both characters continued to help create their own unhappiness and isolation, as they matured, further paving the dysfunctional path of their futures. Neither one fit comfortably into the world, in the space they occupied, and their own impetuous decisions, as they grew older, were just as foolish as those that originally caused their lives to veer into the unusual, rather than the ordinary. Alice and Mattia are indeed prime numbers, divisible only by one, because they can’t abide close relationships with others. As they matured, they both continued to help shape their own unhappiness and life of solitude, a life they seemed, eventually, to grow to prefer. Their own idiosyncratic behavior discouraged healthy interactions as much as the way others treated them created that unhealthy behavior, that very behavior which turned them away from personal contact. The book explored the consequences of decisions and the interaction of the characters with others, as they developed. They were needy and they met needy people. They were lonely and lonely people gravitated toward them. Dysfunction followed them, and often it was the key to their survival, as others, in spite of their shortcomings and their oddness, were drawn to them, precisely because of their deficiencies. The book is uncomfortable to read because it is a sad commentary on the lives of the characters that never seemed to move on and grow. The book examines characters that are so called, “normal” characters who preyed on those that were not, who bullied them mercilessly, and yet, those characters managed to have more successful lives than those they bullied, and left to wither. All of the characters seemed flawed in some way, all seemed to have trouble communicating with each other, but the two main characters were uniquely flawed. It was another audio book for me and I am becoming quite fond of this format. If the reader is good, the experience is exhilarating because I think it helps you become a part of the narrative with the narrator, feeling the excitement, fear, tension of the voice and suffering the whole range of emotions of the characters, as they do. Although I found it to be a sad little book, I also found it to be quite credible and recognized some of the characters in other people I have known through my lifetime. Reactions were plausible. I never had to suspend disbelief. It examined the ordinary and extraordinary reactions our experiences and environment sometimes unwittingly, precipitate.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 22, 2010

    not for me

    After reading so many positive reviews I had high hopes for this book, and for me I found it sadly lacking. We follow the two main characters but I feel sometimes they exclude even us the audience from what they are going through.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2013

    Hard to say...

    The writing is excellent, the story unusual, the perspectives and characters unique. The ending was abrupt and ... disappointing.

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  • Posted March 10, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    It was exceptional! I couldn't put it down and read it within a

    It was exceptional! I couldn't put it down and read it within a day. Would highly recommend to anyone! 

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  • Posted November 6, 2012

    This is the tale of a pull and push that inevitably happens with

    This is the tale of a pull and push that inevitably happens with those of an alike nature. A young man and woman drawn together for their similar natures only to realize that it's that same quality that pushes them apart. Frankly, hasn't that theme run a little too redundant?

    Haven't we yet learned that opposites attract, and alike repel? Well, I guess you can already guess I wasn't too impressed by this book.

    I came to own this book by way of a GoodReads recommendation. I actually stumbled on it at first by viewing someone's profile who was already 'currently-reading' it. Afterwards, that same person recommended that I read it. I liked most of their book selections, I loved the summary of the book, and finally by way of it being chosen in my Global Reading Book Club, I gave it a go. The big dissapointment came when I was quickly unimpressed by it. I didn't like it much at all.

    The writing is more than stale, in my opinion. I grew to boredom often than not. I wasn't pulled into the plot at all, if maybe one time. I guess it just maybe isn't my type of book, maybe a little too 'mathematical?' Which ironically shouldn't have been a problem fom me since I come from a science background, yet it was. Go figure!

    I will leave it at that since it is all I actually want to say about this book that left me dry for the most part.

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  • Posted October 5, 2012

    Decent

    Strange book! If you're looking for something a bit different, this may be the book for you. I couldn't stop reading it, but I wouldn't call it a favorite.

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  • Posted September 5, 2012

    Did not like...would not recommend

    I am sure in some circles this is considered a well written book and it ceertainly got good review. But I found it dark and depressing and the characters....all of them too emotionally stunted and disturbed for my taste. I am not even sure why I finished it. Just not my cuppa tea.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2012

    engrossing and sad

    The two main characters in this novel will break your heart. Both are damaged in different ways. They struggle to fit in and survive in the world, coping in ways that are harmful and distancing...

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  • Posted July 18, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    For anyone who feels different..

    A great book, Mattia and Alice are instantly relatable.

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  • Posted April 6, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Twin Primes

    Set in Italy, this disturbing tale weaves together the tormented lives of Mattia and Alice. Both comes from fractured families and have unsettling childhoods from which they are trying to escape. Loners by nature, the chemistry that exists between the two of them is rare. From highschool they set off on two different paths, but their need for eachother keeps bringing them back together. The characters were created with much depth, unfortunately the plot ends without a true climax and after awhile it becomes very repetitive and leaves you bored.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 63 Customer Reviews

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