A prime number can be divided only 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, and is set to become a universal classic.
Paolo Giordano’s The Solitude of Prime Numbers perfectly suits narrator Luke Daniels’ talent for adapting his voice to a variety of characters. From snippy teenage girls to a Spanish housekeeper to a suavely confident young doctor, Daniels masters them all. in addition, as the book’s main characters, Mattia and Alice, grow and develop, Daniels never allows their voices to lose that haunting and lost quality childhood trauma has embedded within them.
Alice and Mattia are the novel’s prime numbers; two individuals unable to accommodate others into their lives due to the deep scars literal and figurative with which childhood events marked them. Both are burdened by what Alice refers to as “the weight of consequences”, by decisions they each made as young children with the results of those decisions glaringly visible. Alice is left crippled from a skiing accident that began as a rebellion from lessons she hated, and Mattia regularly cuts and slices his arms and hands to compensate for an embarrassment that turned to tragedy. They meet as teenagers and begin as much of a relationship as they can, both being unable to let another easily into their private worlds. Daniels perfectly captures the characters’ expectations of teen parties, the agonies of the events themselves, misplaced friendships, and emotional misunderstandings.
With Giordano’s vivid descriptions and the versatile talents of Daniels, listeners are given a glimpse into the minds of two psychologically scarred people. Mattia focuses on the minutiae of lines, shadows, and perspectives, thereby making unnecessary and random calculations of them to keep himself from meaningful interactions with other people. Flippant Alice’s lifelong anorexic self-absorption meshes with Mattia’s avoidance until adulthood challenges both to live in a larger world.
Throughout the book there is the constant presence of a third prime number, an individual who, for a short time, is linked to Alice and Mattia’s mathematical chain. For Mattia, it is the spirit of his twin sister, Michaela. He abandoned his mentally challenged sister in a park when they were small; the memory of Michaela and the guilt of leaving her remain a constant presence in the atmosphere of his life. Alice interacts with more people than Mattia but with an equal lack of success.
Giordano deftly weaves mathematics through Mattia and Alice’s lives. The prime number theory maintains that between any two numbers (n and its double) there must be a prime number. The only number for which the theory is not true is the number one. if a solitary number one does find another to become two, then for the infinite series of numbers that follows the prime number will remain clustered between groups of other numbers. it is for the rapt listener of The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giardano and performed by Luke Daniels to decide if Alice or Mattia can ever learn to connect with another prime number in order to progress. Carole Chouinard
"The novel's bleak subject matter is rendered almost beautiful by Giordano's spare, intense focus on his two characters." (Publishers Weekly)
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