The Solitude of Prime Numbers (2010) The melancholy that hangs over The Solitude of Prime Numbers is seductive and unnerving. From the moment we meet young Alice Della Rocca and Mattia… 2010-03-18 Fiction Pamela Dorman Books
Book Review

The Solitude of Prime Numbers (2010)

The Solitude of Prime Numbers | The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano
The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano
EW's GRADE
A-

Details Release Date: Mar 18, 2010; Writer: Paolo Giordano; Genre: Fiction; Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books

The melancholy that hangs over The Solitude of Prime Numbers is seductive and 
unnerving. From the moment we meet young Alice Della Rocca and Mattia Balossino at the start of Paolo Giordano's haunting 
novel — already a best-seller abroad — we're engrossed by the way in which a dreadful 
combination of faulty brain wiring and rotten luck propels each child's future, like number sequences locking into place. Truly, this girl and boy, upper-middle-class Italian schoolmates, have been dealt strikingly lousy hands of fate in Giordano's assured debut. (To 
give any further specifics would ruin the story.)

It's impossible to look away as the stunted lives of 
Alice and Mattia touch each other in the decades that follow. Each survives adolescence. Each manages to find satisfying work — Alice as a photographer, Mattia as a mathematician. Each forms exceedingly imperfect 
personal relationships with others. One even marries. The pair's lives intersect at various points in the course of this quiet heartbreaker, and each recognizes a 
kindred alienation in the other.

The misleading cover of the American edition features a photograph of two peas in a pod. But in truth, Alice and Mattia are only alike insofar as how strange and singular they are. They're twin primes, if you want to get fancy. Primes, Giordano writes, are "suspicious and solitary numbers," divisible only by one and by themselves. Twin primes "are close to each other, almost neighbors, 
but between them there is always an even number 
that prevents them from truly touching."

Trust Giordano on 
this one — he's a professional physicist. Also, there are 271 pages in this singular novel. You do the math. A–

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Originally posted Mar 09, 2010 Published in issue #1094 Mar 19, 2010 Order article reprints