Find Me is the October 2019 sequel to André Aciman’s 2007 novel Call Me By Your Name, which was popularised by the success of its 2017 movie adaptation. As a much anticipated follow up, Find Me is at times poignant, if not a slightly disappointing read for expectant fans.
The story of Elio and Oliver, central to Call Me By Your Name, takes a back seat for the majority of Find Me. The book is split into three major sections. The first is set ten years after the events of Call Me By Your Name, focusing on Elio’s dad, Samuel, who meets a much younger woman, Miranda, on a train. They fall in love almost immediately. The second section is five years on from this, when Elio meets an older man, Michel, with whom he too falls suddenly in love. It is only towards the end of the novel, a further five years later, that we check in with the married Oliver in America and watch his long-expected reunion with Elio from Aciman’s earlier book.
The first two sections parallel each other across decades through the similar cross-generational romances. Despite making readers feel perhaps a little apprehensive at first, Aciman does handle the age differences sensitively, and in a non-predatory fashion. The characters enjoy in-depth conversation, so you at least feel like they’re getting to know each other before they get it on.
But at times, the transgressive flirtations do feel slightly stomach-turning, especially with the novel’s focus on familial ties. Miranda confesses how as a teenager she yearned to have sex with her brother. Also at one point Elio’s older man, Michel, confesses to him that “you remind me of my son.”
It all makes for some interesting inter-generational philosophy about time and relationships, but it’s somehow not as coherent as Call Me By Your Name. The first book was ineffable and immersive, focusing mostly on one summer and a relationship between two people. Above all, it managed to realistically present how it feels to be a teenager in love. The sequel seems to lose that richness somewhere between all the narrative threads and switching perspectives.
There’s something profoundly unrealistic about how Aciman’s characters talk and behave. With the constant high-brow, philosophical dialogue plus the tendency of each character to speak in long, musing speeches, it’s all kind of repelling. These people suddenly seem like characters you wouldn’t really want to meet, let alone have a conversation with.
What is difficult with this book is that the prose is lovely. It is just nice to read for the most part, despite the nonsense. Every now and then, it strikes a palpable chord, especially if it’s detailing something sad or nostalgic. At one point Samuel provides one of these moments as he speaks with Miranda. He suggests “…the magic of someone new never lasts long enough. We only want those we can’t have. It’s those we lost or who never knew we existed who leave their mark. The others barely echo.” This is charming to read, albeit far from what anyone would actually spout to a stranger on a train.
So Find Me is a pleasant, romantic read. But it wasn’t as good as the first book, and it might just make you want to read something a little grittier once you’re done.