"Prime numbers are divisible only by 1 and by themselves. They hold their place in the infinite series of natural numbers, squashed, like all numbers, between two others, but one step further than the rest. They are suspicious, solitary numbers, which is why Mattia thought they were wonderful. Sometimes he thought that they had ended up in that sequence by mistake, that they'd been trapped, like pearls strung on a necklace. Other times he suspected that they too would have preferred to be like all the others, just ordinary numbers, but for some reason they couldn't do it. This second thought struck him mostly at night, in the chaotic interweaving of images that comes before sleep, when the mind is too weak to tell itself lies."
This book is beautifully written and full of interesting thoughts on relationships and especially the difficulties that most of us have, not only with making connections, but with figuring out how to move forward in our most important relationships. I really liked the first part of this book with the character development and the insightful details. And then, about the time that Mattia leaves things sort of fall apart.
First, we have the extremely convenient opportunity of Viola's wedding for Alice to exact her revenge (which is perfectly in character as she holds such grudges), but then we have her reversal to Mattia; why exactly, if she is so unable to forgive anyone else in her life does she still return to him and yearn for him, rather than bear him a grudge for leaving in the first place?
Clearly, Alice hallucinates in her underfed moment at the hospital and imagines that some other mentally handicapped young woman is Micheala or completely fabricates a young woman. Understandably, she is feeling alone and desperate and her subconscious drags up a reason to contact Mattia. And just as understandably, he runs immediately back when summoned. I did not find either of these things to be out of character or unbelievable. HOWEVER, it was way too convenient that the night before he receives the summons he not only meets a woman who at dinner with friend announces, "You just need the courage to go back" seemingly appropos of nothing and then proceeds to take his virginity because (after all) "contact with her skin did not repel him." I don't understand why the episode with Nadia could not have come 3 years earlier (or 2 or 4 or whatever, he is gone for 9), rather than the night before. By writing it this way, Giordano has interlaced these events and I don't think they need to be interlaced. Mattia is a very logical, non-emotive being; he does not relate to people (with the sole exception of Alice) and the episode with Nadia is more great character development. BUT I didn't think it really had any bearing on his decision to leave Alice. I think his fear of her relationship with Fabio has a much stronger impact on his decision and his moment in the bathroom, surrounded by her new life was more important that the one night stand with Nadia.
Two other little things that bugged me: I thought she made too big a deal out of his graduation; clearly she knew he was graduating and the fact that she found him in the library and said she had thought of that moment many times before felt overblown. Similarly, when she has her depressive streak and doesn't leave the house or clean for 3 weeks she thinks that she has always done everything for others, but this is not the case. Alice has always hidden from people and done things for herself; she is really quite selfish in many ways. Maybe Giordano was trying to convey that her selfishness was so deep that she was completely unaware of it, but I just found the comment distracting and annoying.
Overall it is very compelling (especially for a character piece) and quite entertaining. I was hopeful when I started it, and I think there was possibility for more here if he had managed to be more consistent with the characters.