Did you see the movie Call Me by Your Name, based on the book by André Aciman, and wonder what happened to poor Elio after his romance with Oliver? Aciman’s latest novel, set about two decades after the momentous events of the first, has the answer.
In a nod to Elio’s reputation as a musical prodigy, the book is divided into musical sections: “Tempo,” “Cadenza,” “Capriccio” and “Da Capo.” Surprisingly, it starts not with Elio’s journey but with his dad’s. In “Tempo,” Mr. Perlman has gotten a divorce and, one day on a train, meets a grumpy-looking girl who’s young enough to be his daughter. They fall instantly in love. In “Cadenza,” Elio meets a man old enough to be his father at a recital. They fall instantly in love. In “Capriccio,” Oliver, about to decamp from New York for a teaching job in New Hampshire, throws a party with his wife in their nearly denuded apartment. Enjoying his last view of the Hudson River, sipping prosecco and nibbling finger foods, he pines for the boy he deflowered so many years ago. As for “Da Capo”—well, that would spoil things, but if you know what Da Capo means, and if you read the first book, you have an idea.
As with the first book and movie, much of the action takes place in Italy, with great food and tipple, hidden museums full of Renaissance art, passionate music, cooling fountains and warm, honey-gold sunshine. We see nothing of the dark side of Italy, with right-wing politics or trash rotting in the streets because everyone’s on strike. In other words, the characters are as overprivileged as ever, and Aciman populates his novel with a sensual, almost overripe type of a man who swears he can’t live without Balvenie Doublewood 17 Year Scotch. Better yet, Aciman’s people are as foolish as ever, and their foolishness is their point of connection with the reader.
It’s tempting to describe Find Me as a pleasant, post-summer diversion, but it’s deeper than that. It will remind you of that one person you loved and lost and maybe found again. True, the book is lush, but it’s also bittersweet and nostalgic and a bit heartachey. Autumnal is probably the best word to describe it.