Must-read acclaimed novel

Our Alice Farnsworth reviews the acclaimed first novel of Paolo Giordano, The Solitude of Prime Numbers:

 
A prime number can only be divided by itself or by one; it never truly fits with another. Both Alice and Mattia are primes, misfits damaged in childhood. Both are lonely, miscast children who suffer overwhelming trauma, further isolating them. 
 
When she is eight, Alice is crippled by a devastating skiing accident. She blames her father and her emotionally absent mother. Mattia, clearly a genius, is burdened by his mentally handicapped twin, and abandons her in a park, thus avoiding the embarrassment of taking her with him to a birthday party. When he returns hours later, she has disappeared, never to be found. As they grow into their teens, both Alice and Mattia punish themselves with self-mutilation, their outer wounds reflecting their inner agony. Alice and Mattia meet in their teens, recognizing in each a kindred spirit. Their destinies seem irrevocably intertwined, but they are later separated.
 
Author Paolo Giordano’s writing is pointed and direct but aptly descriptive, creating an atmosphere of solitude. As readers we feel like phantoms, along with Alice and Mattia. At the same time, he has created a good story, well paced and well told. There doesn’t seem to be a single misplaced word.
 
Paolo Giordano is a 27-year-old particle physicist and this is his first novel, written as a hobby. The Solitude of Prime Numbers has been translated into more than 30 languages.  He is the youngest winner of Italy’s premier literary award. Britain‘s The Independent called him "a promising hope for the future of Italian literature."  He is in the process of writing his second novel. It will be interesting to see whether it can possibly be better than this first.
 
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