BOOK REVIEW: Enigma Variations by André Aciman

Fate always leaves a mark, and those of us who are truly lucky know the signs and how to read them.

Synopsis: Enigma Variations charts the life of a man named Paul, whose loves remain as consuming and as covetous throughout his adulthood as they were in his adolescence. Whether the setting is southern Italy, where as a boy he has a crush on his parents’ cabinetmaker, or a snowbound campus in New England, where his enduring passion for a girl he’ll meet again and again over the years is punctuated by anonymous encounters with men – whether he’s on a tennis court in Central Park or on a New York sidewalk in early spring. Paul’s attachments are ungraspable, transient, and forever underwritten by raw desire. Ahead of every step Paul takes, his hopes, denials, fears, and regrets are always ready to lay their traps. Yet the dream of love lingers. We may not always know what we want. We may remain enigmas to ourselves and to others. But sooner or later, we discover who we’ve always known we were.

Published January 2017

Genre: Literary Fiction

Themes: LGBT, sexuality, lust, romance, love, desire, first love

Amazon* / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository

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There was no question that I was going to love this – let’s just say it only took one novel, Call Me By Your Name, for me to add André Aciman on my list of all-time favorite authors. His prose rivals that of a true classic.

Yes, the past is a foreign country, but some of us are full-fledged citizens, others occasional tourists, and some floating itinerants, aching to get out yet always aching to return.

By the way, the quote above is a response to a quote by L.P. Hartley: The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.

Much like CMBYN, Enigma Variations retains the sensual nature distinctive in Aciman’s works. It is a story of lust, of deep desires, of first loves; it once again explores the idea of soulmates. In fact, the novel is divided into five different sections, each one focusing on a different love interest/romantic partner of the main character, Paul – set in nonlinear timelines and unpredictable locations.

The focus is not on any one particular love interest, but on Paul’s journey to love and romance, asking questions such as: what does it take to find the person you end up with? what makes a relationship work? what kind of things do you discover about yourself through the persons you find yourself attracted to?

..each of us is given at least nine versions of our lives, some we guzzle, others we take tiny, timid sips from, and some our lips never touch.

Just as I’ve come to expect in a novel by Aciman, it is filled with philosophical musings and it made me ponder on many questions, not only about love, but about life itself. A particular favorite of mine is the discussion rooted from a line in Edith Wharton’s (author of Ethan Frome) journal: I have drunk the wine of life at last! The idea of measuring a life well-lived is one of the major talking points, and basically, it asks the question: Is there really such a thing as the wine of life? At what point in our lives, and what needs to occur, for us to stop and think, Yes, that is enough – I have drunk the wine of life?

Sips and maybes is not how one gorges on the wine of life.

Overall, I highly recommend Enigma Variations if you haven’t tried any of Aciman’s works or if you’ve read CMBYN and liked it! I also recommend it to those who like intellectual fiction reads. As for me, I’m looking forward to picking up his other novels when I get the chance.

As always, thanks for reading!

Shop for another novel written by the author:

Have you read any of André Aciman’s works?

Have you drunk the wine of life?

Two wine glass with champagne in them in Thera

Sincerely Peachy (1)

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