The narrator of this coming of age novel is a 17 year old very accomplished young man who finds he is attracted to men as well as women. He struggles with all the universal feelings about the object of his affections, a young academic staying with the narrator’s family for six weeks in their home on the Riviera. Those feelings, the intense longing, fear of rejection, the countless ups and downs, are given an edge by the forbidden nature of the act. He knows his life will never be the same if his desires are fulfilled. He feels powerful remorse immediately after the longed-for event, and of course, his remorse and declaration he would never do that again quickly dissipates. I found this a pleasingly intense book.
There is a visit to Rome, including a party that lasts all night for a poet whose new book was just published. The poet’s favorite was a poem called the San Clemente Syndrome, named for the Basilica which Abby and I visited. It is notable because the site has an ancient temple to Mithras with several successive Christian churches built over it. It is like love and memory, the poet says, because there is no first anything, just layers and passageways.
The lovers part, never to make love again, and only see each other twice in the years after. Elio, the narrator, tells of his visits to the places they were together and I was reminded of the intensity and confusion of feelings I have when I have returned to places I lived long ago.