Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers for Call Me By Your Name.
André Aciman’s new sequel to Call Me By Your Name has been long-awaited by book and film fans around the world. All those who fell in love with the love story of Elio and Oliver have been on the edge of their seat to find out what happens next — will the pair reunite again? Writing a sequel to such a successful combination of a best-selling novel and an Oscar-winning film was definitely a risk. Aciman took it, despite all the consequences that may come afterward.
Find Me is a 200-page novel, divided into three sections. Each section focuses on characters that the reader has met in Call Me By Your Name; the book may come off as a collection of short stories, rather than a fully-fleshed and realized novel. The story focuses on the characters’ lives 20 years after the end of Call Me By Your Name. As we follow each one, we are gradually immersed in the events that have happened ever since to Elio’s father, and to Elio and Oliver.
The first section of the novel focuses on Elio’s father, Samuel, and his gradual infatuation with a woman he has met on the train from Florence to Rome. Although holding some significance in terms of what this section provides — content-wise, mostly — it is one that is largely irrelevant. While it is written in a rather pleasant and dreamy manner, this section does seem to be one that was used to pass the time. In terms of what is provided to the story of Elio and Oliver, it was painfully irrelevant.
The following two sections returned to familiar characters, but the narrative seems distant and the characters seem to be completely changed. Of course, time is a defining factor in this. Nevertheless, considering the familiarity we feel in the scenes set in the future in Call Me By Your Name, there is none at all in Find Me. It is almost as if we are reading a novel that focuses on two people named Elio and Oliver and other than the constant references to what happened 20 years ago, there is nothing else left of the characters we fell in love with in the first novel.
While Find Me seeks to build upon the shards of memory that are left after Call Me By Your Name, it does completely overrule some of them. Scenes from the first novel such as when Oliver and his wife visit the Perlmans in Italy or when Oliver returns to be greeted by Mafalda and Elio are completely forgotten. The worst part is that it is completely uncertain whether this has been a mistake in editing and fact-checking or was done to achieve a certain purpose — perhaps, one that would provide the easiest reunion to the two characters, without external disturbances such as Oliver’s wife and children or the inquisitive Mafalda.
As much as Aciman seeks to reproduce the magical atmosphere of Call Me By Your Name, at times, this feels almost superficial. In an almost repetitive pattern, the characters wander the streets of Rome or Paris, visit a bar and make love in a hotel room or an apartment. Undoubtedly, Find Me is about love. However, in Call Me By Your Name, this love was served on the plate of affection and infatuation, whereas here, it seems to be there just to evoke emotion.
Towards the end, the writing feels hasty. The sections become shorter, as the novel progresses and less and less attention to detail is given: the emotions and feelings of the characters become undermined and events are presented in a set of flashes, rather than something continuous and developed. It almost seems as if all the effort has been given to the first section; the others can be dismissed.
Undoubtedly, this is a problem a number of sequel face: they are unable to live up to the greatness of the original work, especially when it was intended to be a stand-alone story. Find Me was just not meant to be the perfect continuation of the acclaimed book and film — and certainly, not the under-developed and rushed ending Elio and Oliver deserve.
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