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The Solitude of Prime Numbers: A Novel Hardcover – March 18, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books (March 18, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670021482
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670021482
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (134 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,200,713 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Italian author and mathematician Giordano follows two scarred people whose lives intersect but can't seem to join in his cerebral yet touching debut. Alice and Mattia, both survivors of childhood traumas, are the odd ones out amid the adolescent masses in their high school. Mattia has never recovered from the loss of his sister, while Alice still suffers the effects of a skiing accident that damaged her physically and stunted her ability to trust. Now teenagers, Mattia, also addicted to self-injury, has withdrawn into a world of numbers and math, and Alice gains control through starving herself and photography. When they meet, they recognize something primal in each other, but timing and awkwardness keep their friendship on tenuous ground until, years later, their lives come together one last time. Giordano uses Mattia and Alice's trajectory to ask whether there are some people—the prime numbers among us—who are destined to be alone, or whether two primes can come together. The novel's bleak subject matter is rendered almost beautiful by Giordano's spare, intense focus on his two characters. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

Giordano’s deeply touching debut novel immediately thrusts the reader into the lives of two individuals, at the moment when each of their young lives takes a sharp turn toward painful solitude: Alice has been crippled in a childhood skiing accident, Mattia is consumed by guilt after playing an unintended but key role in his twin sister’s disappearance. Upon meeting in their early teens, they develop a frequently uncomfortable yet enveloping friendship. What follows is a beautiful and affecting account of the ways in which seemingly inconsequential decisions reverberate so intensely as to change a life forever. Translated from the Italian, this is a book about communication: in lacking a facility for self-expression, our stunted protagonists exist almost solely, and safely, in their own minds. Despite its heavy subject matter, it reads easily, due in part to the almost seamless translation. A quietly explosive ending completes the novel in just the fashion it was started, as an intimate psychological portrait of two “prime numbers”—together alone and alone together. --Annie Bostrom

Customer Reviews

It is a beautiful story which shows just how a traumatic childhood can scar us for life.
I understand that the point of this book is supposed to be that some people are just meant to be alone.
Amazon Customer
You cannot put this book down, and there are no neat endings just an incredibly real story.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

88 of 97 people found the following review helpful By My2Cents VINE VOICE on February 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The Solitude of Prime Numbers is a quiet but poignant coming of age story about two lonely misfits: Alice Della Rocca and Mattia Balossino. The story begins in 1983 and ends in 2007.

Alice is pushed by her overbearing father at a young age to become a world-class skier, but a serious skiing accident,in the Italian alps, leaves her scarred and with a permanent limp. She desperately wants to fit in, but she is taunted by other classmates, engages in self loathing behavior, and, as a result, detests her father for the life she seems faced with.

Mattia is a twin, while he is brilliant, his twin sister Michela is damaged: "his brain seemed to be a perfect machine, in the same mysterious way that his sisters was so defective". Despite this the twins are placed in the same class at school, and Mattia finds himself constantly trying to shelter his sister from the taunting and the laughter of other students. He is forced by his parents to take his sister everywhere. When an incident occurs for which Mattia feels responsible, his life becomes full of guilt, and self loathing behavior as well. In high school he is sent to a new school, and the teachers are not sure how to handle the gifted, but socially withdrawn Mattia.

Alice tries to befriend Mattia, and is attracted to him. When she learns that he is a genius, she asks him if he likes to study. His reply is: "It's the only thing I know how to do." (He wanted to tell her that he liked to study because you can do it alone, because all the things you study are already dead, cold and chewed over). Needless to say, for Alice and Mattia the high school years had further scarred these two individuals who felt rejected by the world.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Bryan K. Pounds on April 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover
"I'm never alone, I'm alone all the time..."

Gavin Rossdale's aforementioned popular lyric from 90's rock band "Bush" describes this novel best, as his words resonated throughout my skull while devouring this tale of damaged, yet unmistakeably interesting beings.

Most of us have experienced awkward and/or embarrassing situations in our youth; whether it be rejection by a potential suitor for the first time, striking out in an important little league baseball game, or performing actions that one would not normally acquiesce to for the sole purpose of "fitting in". However, some of these situations can be so grim and cavernous that it permanently affects our psyche, or in some instances, our physicality. Paolo Giordano's novel "The Solitude of Prime Numbers" is a fantastic yet melancholy examination of these very scars of our youth projected into adulthood.

Alice is an awkward little girl, forced into scenarios and activities by her upscale father that ultimately leave her physically altered and emotionally detached from her family. With a strong yearning for living a normal life, she goes to extreme lengths to be normal again, eventually giving rise to disorders to which she has little control over. Mattia represents the prodigy with a beautiful mind, but his twin sister Michela has a mental handicap which proves to be his childhood Achilles. The abandonment of his sister in the park to attend a birthday party without the embarrassment of her usual antics causes a deep fear and regret, from which Mattia's genius mind never fully recovers. Eventually, the odd pair cross paths and become frequent acquaintances.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Rehey on April 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This review is geared for people considering this for a book club selection.

A few reasons why I recommend this book for book club:
1) Nobody had heard of it or had already read it when I suggested this novel--not always an easy thing.
2) It is fairly long but was a quick read (I read it in a few hours). So, when we met everyone had read the book and held a strong opinion about it.
3) Though you could read it quickly, the book is very character-driven and thus yielded rich conversation. Most of us agreed that while the characters were not so likeable, they portrayed familiar people and were intriguing for the decisions they made. Other than the In addition to the characters, there was a lot to talk about with regard to literary devices and style--the prime number analogy alone could take up half the discussion. In the end, most of us felt it was 3-4 stars and worth the read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Joanna on May 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a beautiful translation of a beautifully written novel about two tormented souls. I was drawn right into their story and found the prose flawlessly crafted and the characters intriguing and sympathetic, particularly when they were children and teens. As they grew older, I began to feel a bit impatient with their continuing self-destructive behaviors and seeming inability to change much at all. Thematically, I'm sure this was in keeping with the author's vision and realistic, but I wanted something more for the narrative drive of the story and as a sort of emotional pay-off. There was one point when I thought this was coming and grew quite excited, but the story never went where I hoped it would and that was pretty disappointing. True to life, yes, but I like fiction that's more cathartic or dramatic than that. Still, a worthwhile read and one I'd recommend, especially to readers who don't mind sad stories and artistic subtlety.
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More About the Author

Paolo Giordano won Italy's prestigious literary award, the Premio Strega, for The Solitude of Prime Numbers, his debut novel. He is a professional physicist.

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