Chance encounters hint at great romance, and Oliver dreams of Elio, in a stylised yet frustratingly unrealistic novel of love
In Richard Linklaters film Before Sunrise, two strangers meet on a train, strike up a conversation and soon find themselves wandering around Vienna, intoxicated by each others presence and recognising that from a chance encounter a great romance might have begun. Find Me is a sequel to Call Me By Your Name, Andr Acimans 2007 novel that became an Oscar-winning film, and it begins in the same way as Linklaters movie, but rather than the protagonists being a couple of twentysomethings, Samuel and Miranda have a greater disparity between their ages. The former, the father of the young pianist Elio from the earlier novel, is at least 30 years older than the latter.
Its a brave conceit in 2019, when any suggestion of impropriety between an older man and a younger woman is generally given short shrift, but theres no touching or hand-holding here, no lewd comments or sexual innuendo. Instead, the pair engage in a long and erudite conversation that leads them to spending the day together and waiting no more than a few hours to agree that theirs is the greatest love affair since Orpheus first set eyes on Eurydice.
Having read much of Acimans work, I find his writing intriguing and maddening in equal parts. While the elegance of his prose and the sophistication of his characters are to be admired, his creations rarely seem human, speaking in a pompous fashion where everyone, regardless of age or circumstance, is intimately familiar with classical music and philosophy. Love lies at the heart of his books, but as a concept rather than a reality. No one in an Aciman novel can ever just go on a few dates and see how things work out. Instead they know from their first interaction that theyre destined to be together, revelling in the authenticity of their affections. Ultimately, it does not make them seem evolved but narcissistic, shallow and a little immature.
The same problems weakened his previous novel, Enigma Variations, where the central character Paul fell in love with five different people across the story, declaring each one to be the great love of his life before chucking them in favour of the next. Here, Samuel and Miranda are planning their future together before the guard has even checked their tickets. In fact, within hours of meeting, the pair discuss having children, buy monogrammed mugs, consider getting matching tattoos and she introduces him to her father. Im as romantic as the next guy but theres a fine line between passion and recklessness. Is this going too fast for you? Miranda asks him, and its a fair question. Its going too fast for me and Im not even in the relationship.