THE SOLITUDE OF PRIME NUMBERS by Paolo Giordano (trans. Shaun Whiteside)

THE SOLITUDE OF PRIME NUMBERS by Paolo Giordano (trans. Shaun Whiteside)

Teenage years, almost always difficult to navigate, but most do not have the issues that Mattia and Alice have. Mattia once had a twin sister who was mentally retarded and more than a hindrance to Mattia. When he was six or seven he left her in a park, and she was never seen again. A burden too awful for any family or young child to deal with. Alice, on the other hand, suffered a serious leg injury while skiing, again as a young child, leaving her badly crippled. Both are lonely, both have over protective parents, both have put up massive barriers in dealing with the world around them, and their growing up years are tormented, confusing, awkward, and not at all happy. Through the teenage social rituals of parties, drinking and sex they find each other and over the course of the years never really let go.

They are good for each other, in their damaged tormented states and like all the best friendships, things do go awry from time to time. But they quickly realise they need each other, they may not actually survive this stage of their lives if they don't have each other. Mattia is a maths genius, and he comes up with the idea that he and Alice are 'twin primes', like 11 and 13, or 17 and 19, lonely individuals that are forever linked but forever separated. Although the bulk of the story takes place in the teenage years, it finishes when Alice and Mattia are in their late 20s/early 30s, by which time they have worked through much of their pain and developed into reasonably well functioning adults.

It is not a joyful or happy read, but there is always a sense of hope, that things are going to get better for these two, and they are such real people, You feel their pain, their dislocation. So sensitively and insightfully written, it is quite wonderful. 

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