Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Enigma Variations” as Want to Read:
Enigma Variations
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Enigma Variations

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  7,445 ratings  ·  952 reviews
A passionate portrait of love’s contradictory power, in five illuminating stories.

Andre Aciman, who has been called “the most exciting new fiction writer of the twenty-first century” (New York Magazine), has written a novel in Enigma Variations that charts the life of Paul whose loves remain as consuming and covetous throughout adulthood as they were in adolescence. Whethe
Hardcover, 266 pages
Published January 3rd 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Enigma Variations, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Douglas Stevens My thoughts are that it covers much the same ground, but with a different (and more interesting) structure, and a decidedly different emphasis. And I …moreMy thoughts are that it covers much the same ground, but with a different (and more interesting) structure, and a decidedly different emphasis. And I don't find it is sad so much as ending with the narrator somewhat disappointed with his life, as is so often the case in real life. The structure is 5 somewhat longish short stories, each with its own sometimes surprising ending. My complaint is the ending of the book. For an individual short story, the ending of the last story is abrupt and clever, but the book has covered so many dimensions in the narrator's life, that the ending seems abrupt.
There is an interesting interview with the author about this book on Audible. It won't tell you much about the book unless you've at least started reading, but he reveals that the last story was written first, and he decided it needed at least a companion piece to make it work. Eventually he scrapped the companion and preceded it with four contrasting and somewhat disjointed stories. This, I think, is the problem with the ending.
Each of the stories has a different tone and feeling. The first is most like Call me by your name, and I think is the only one that could stand alone.
The other four stories need each other more, and they would probably work just as well without the first story. Maybe it serves to set up Paul's continuing sexual confusion, so I'm glad it's included.
It's good enough that I'll reread it soon to sort out how he mapped things out to lead to the final paragraph.(less)
Noah L The Enigma Variations is about the personal relationships that Elgar had. This book is about the personal relationships that the main character had. T…moreThe Enigma Variations is about the personal relationships that Elgar had. This book is about the personal relationships that the main character had. There are a lot of other parallels if you want to use your imagination...

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.70  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,445 ratings  ·  952 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Enigma Variations
Larry H
Jan 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
André Aciman's debut novel, Call Me by Your Name , utterly blew me away. I remember reading and re-reading paragraphs, mesmerized by his poetic language, and at times dissolving into tears from the emotional power of the story. While I could never seem to get into his second novel, and didn't know he wrote a third, when I stumbled on his latest novel, Enigma Variations , I thought I'd give his writing one more try.

This book is staggeringly beautiful. Powerfully emotional, haunting, frank i
2.8 " reluctant, conflicted, disappointing" stars !!

The Most(est) Disappointing Read of 2017 Award

I really struggled with much of this book.

Mr. Aciman is an immensely talented writer but has great difficulty in distillation as well as writing a story that I care very much about. His writing is occasionally profound and moving but more often is overwrought, adolescent, saccharine and at times very dull and/or crass.

The protagonist is one of the most self-centred, miserable, selfish, sonofabitch
Elyse  Walters
Jan 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I forgot to mention one more thing when I wrote this this morning... PLEASE TAKE A LOOK AT LARRY'S review!!! Its wonderful-- and he was my inspiration for reading this!!!

"We make assumptions about how our lives are being charted without knowing that we are making these assumptions--which is the beauty of assumptions: they anchor us without the slightest clue that what we're doing is trusting that nothing changes. We believe that the street we live on will remain the same and bear it's name forev
My response is decidedly enigmatic. Like Call Me By Your Name, this is a book that cries out for rereading. No stars for now. ...more
There was an emotional detachedness to the novel for me. Never once did I feel any sort of deep connection to the protagonist, which left me feeling listless the whole way through. I guess I expected more— something along the lines of the sweeping romanticism and longing of Aciman’s first novel— but expectations and reality didn’t coalesce.

Paul is a frustrating MC. His romantic contradictions and incessant whining threw me off completely. At first, I was bored with him. Part 1 was a grueling tru
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This book blew me away, in a way I was not expecting. It is told in five vignettes/stories, all which took unexpected turns. But these were not shocking story twists that would get old, but surprising moves by characters that ended up feeling more realistic than most writing. The characters get to be complicated. Sexuality is not black and white, nor is fidelity or even hope. There are statements about the longevity of love and connection, the realities of how some people only work in the short- ...more
Feb 02, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, gay-interest
I am a huge fan of Aciman, but this just did not work for me. The strongest section is the first; there is little to tie the five together, so this is really just a loosely bound collection of disparate novellas. Plus the fact that the central protagonist is so reprehensibly louche and dissolute that I had not the slightest ounce of empathy at his plight of being unable to find love. Moral of the story: a dick is a dick.
Jessica Sullivan
Feb 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“I live for this. And if this is all there is, well, this is all there is.”

No one understands and communicates the myriad desires and agonies of the human heart quite like Andre Aciman. This series of five connected stories follows the life and loves of a bisexual man named Paul from adolescence to middle age.

There's the cabinetmaker, his first love; his tennis partner, with whom it takes him two years to make a move; the college sweetheart who he reunites with every four years but never for lo
Apr 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction

The homosexual desire here was so much more convincing than the heterosexual desire, I was surprised to find the author is straight. Thus the last two chapters didn't work for me at all, although you need to get to the last page to find out something which (I suppose) is important. Aciman's writing is very nice but he has a tendency to overuse similes and create aphorisms that trickle on for a long paragraph.
Aug 14, 2020 rated it it was ok
n-n-oooo-oooo *in jessie j’s voice*

boy was this book a drag! i generally appreciate character driven books but reading this felt like a chore and guess what, i hate doing chores. this has got to be longest 266 pages i’ve ever read, even after skim reading the whole book! i found the main protagonist, Paul, shallow, kinda gross and mostly stalker-ish.
the only thing that excited me was when i found a typo in the 2nd story lol (page 85, incase you’re wondering). it seems like im cursed with bo
Tyler  Bell
3.25/5 Stars

A little bit disappointed in this one

André Aciman's Enigma Variations had very high shoes and expectations to fulfill after reading Call me By Your Name. Maybe that is on me, but I found that this book just didn't quite take me there in terms of emotion or even in its characters.

One thing that you're always going to find in an Aciman book is absolutely gorgeous writing. I mean, this book wasn't my cup of tea, but man did I eat it up just because of the power behind this man's wor
Apr 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
André Aciman attended our gay book club last night! As in, it was me, seven other readers, and Dr. Aciman in a small circle of chairs. I got my book signed. It was a treat.

Knowing my experience with Call Me By Your Name, I shouldn't have read this one last minute. Aciman's writing has a way of irritating me that requires distance before I have a complete opinion. Because his speciality is detailing the infinite vacillations of thought and desire. And it digs in so close to the damn truth! It's u
Read By RodKelly
I want to read everything this man has written. The lyrical, poetic writing, filled with passion and sparkling intelligence, carries this story of one man's love affairs to a place of sublime beauty. Aciman wrings out so many emotions from his intensely intimate scenes that it's hard to read at times but the book is pure poetry. If you loved Call Me By Your Name, you'll love this even more. ...more
Feb 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful novel that can be read like interconnected short stories on the meaning of love, identity, relationships, and longing. Aciman's prose is gorgeous and flows smoothly throughout the book, which makes it both easy to read yet something you want to savor. He cuts at the heart of human connection, what sparks relationships, sustains them, and makes them difficult. Overall, it's a book full of stories about what it means to be human and the desire to be surrounded by love and companionship ...more
Nov 23, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2017

I loved Aciman's words, his writing, but I got bored with the person he was writing about. For me the first story 'First Love' is 5 star material.

Like musical variations, Aciman uses this method of using the same theme in different ways to show us Paul and his playing musical chairs with his lovers. I realise that we see Paul in a rather one sided manner because even though we have different stories, different times, the subject matter is still his obsessive thoughts about new love. Paul appeare
Jul 30, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoy the way Aciman’s characters think but overall I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed. It seems the main character, Paul is a coward and somewhat tragic stalker of his victims of ‘love’. Maybe his ferocity of love is simply beyond my comprehension...

I don’t know what I think
Tarneem Maitham
Aug 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
André is one of my favorite writers, his writing is extremely vulnerable and sensual.
he has this style in writing that you can’t shake it out of your head.
His words always seem to haunt me in every book i read.
This definitely one of the best books i read this year.
Highly recommended.
May 01, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enigma Variations follows Paul throughout his life and his relationships. The book contains 5 stories that show us his feelings, his actions and his romances.
I must say I expected more, I wasn't totally happy with this book and that's why I'm giving it 3 stars.
The story I appreciated the most was definitely Manfred even though the ending left me wanting to know more.
Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
4.5 No one writes as elegantly and eloquently about love and desire in all its myriad forms as does Aciman - nor does anyone delineate the bisexual life with such (seeming) accuracy. If his latest novel does not quite reach the heights of his debut, Call Me By Your Name, that's only because his earlier effort was more or less perfect. This presents five linked stories about protagonist Paul/Paulo, from his days as a 12 year old suffering (a perhaps reciprocated) lust for his Italian village's eb ...more
Nigel Massey
Aug 05, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It's not so much the insufferable and selfish protagonist that I found the problem. No wonder he can't commit: his bisexuality has nothing to do with his lack of a sense of loyalty or duty or fidelity. He's a spoiled, arrogant and solipsistic brat. Having said that, I very nearly gave it three stars after the first section; but the crashingly dull people surrounding him overwhelm the book. Pretentious, Sunday-supplement people drinking the latest New York Times wine-recommendation on a balcony t ...more
michael trulli
Jan 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
The first chapter, in and of itself, is a beautiful story, and contains such delicious language of desire.

Ultimately, I was disappointed by most of the rest of it. The "conflicted bisexual" type of protagonist that seems to creep up all too often in explorations of sexuality feels like a safety net for the author and the reader.

After the first chapter, I find Paul, the protagonist/narrator, less and less relatable, or even believable. It's the same kind of fundamental disconnect that made John
Feb 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
It is obvious to readers of Aciman’s debut novel, “Call me by your name”, that there are two themes which the author favors over everything else: love and memory. As he intertwines them in his literary broodings, he carefully places his focus upon how love evolves over time, or upon how our perceptions of it are tinged by our experiences. Do we love a person, or the thought of him/her? How do we construct coherence around our erratic love-and-loss episodes by musing over them in hindsight? Does ...more
Mery ✨
May 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing

"We make assumptions about how our lives are being charted without knowing we're even making these assumptions......we believe that the street we live on will remain the same and bear its name forever. We believe that our friends will stay friends and that those we love we'll love forever. We trust and, by dint of trusting, forget we trusted"

Love, unrequited or not, is something of an Aciman specialty, and he returns to it here in Enigma Variations. The first section is the best, in which Pau
Liina Bachmann
Jul 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories, 2018
I would argue that it is a book about love, like many reviews and also the book cover state. Love is safety, finding comfort in the familiar. Most of those five stories are about the exact opposite. They are about the unknown. That tiny gap of time we all want to relive again and again - when you've met someone and you are driven insane by desire, can't function in a normal way and are driven by the novelty of this feeling. And Aciman knows that feeling well, very well in fact. His writing is so ...more
Jan 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned, read-in-2017
I WISH THE FIRST SECTION OF THE NOVEL (FIRST LOVE) HAD BEEN THE WHOLE NOVEL. That section was the most compelling, poetic, and well-developed of the sections - it felt like its own little novella- and I wish that had been developed into a larger work. The other sections just couldn't compete with the rawness, melancholy, and electricity of that first section - there was a real momentum and tone captured there that made all of the other sections pale in comparison. ...more
Nov 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Aciman writes beautifully about desire and love and the fluidity of his enigmatic narrator's sexual identity. I don't remember if the musical piece Enigma Variations is referred to, but the title certainly fits these linked stories and their puzzling narrator. ...more
Mar 05, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: lgbtq

Okay, look. I am FINE with dreary and annoying love interests who go and pine around like idiots for way too long. I love myself a pretentious unrequited love story. It gives me something to relate to (lol). This is why I absolutely ADORED the first three stories, especially the third about Manfred. I could have an entire (though short) book with the main character just pining for Manfred because I thought it was beautiful, which I know is an unpopular opinion in itself. The book had really
May 24, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: lgbtqia, book-club
What I find interesting about my feelings towards this book is that I didn’t entirely love any part of the story or characters, like, at all, yet I could not put it down at certain points due to how lovely the writing was.

This book is about a man named Paul and his love interests throughout his life. I don’t believe it was ever explicitly stated, but from what I gathered, he was in his forties by the end of it. The love interests each had their own section of the book which detailed the relatio
MJ Beauchamp
May 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Like most, I too was absolutely blown away by André Aciman's first novel Call Me By Your Name. Words can not describe the complexity and beauty of Aciman's writing. I picked up Enigma Variations not necessarily expecting (while definitely hoping) for the same feelings, and wow... I am in awe. So much so, I needed some time to let it sink in and gather my thoughts.

The book is comprised of five novellas, in which we follow a man's state of mind through key relationships and at different points of
Mónica BQ
May 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fav-contemporary
I cried like it was me the book was talking about. And it took me a week to finish this because I kept having to pause after each set of stories and read something else.

I think that what got to me the most was how real this read. The entire book talks about love in its many shapes and forms and it all spoke to me. Enigma Variations is about the shared intimacies in relationships that are unique to each and yet so universal we can all relate to them. The flow of falling in and out of love and our
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: no number of pages 2 11 May 10, 2020 11:28PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Lie With Me
  • Swimming in the Dark
  • Giovanni's Room
  • What Belongs to You
  • Dancer from the Dance
  • Conversations with Friends
  • Olivia
  • A Little Life
  • Normal People
  • Maurice
  • In the Absence of Men
  • The City and the Pillar
  • The Swimming-Pool Library
  • On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
  • Cleanness
  • At Swim, Two Boys
  • Real Life
  • An Honest Man
See similar books…
LGBT > Gay
See top shelves…
André Aciman was born in Alexandria, Egypt and is an American memoirist, essayist, novelist, and scholar of seventeenth-century literature. He has also written many essays and reviews on Marcel Proust. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, The Paris Review, The New Republic, Condé Nast Traveler as well as in many volumes of The Best American Ess ...more

Articles featuring this book

If you love reading as much as our colleagues, then your summer fun itinerary will most likely include books. To help inspire...
114 likes · 38 comments
“So I waited. Then I got used to waiting. Eventually, waiting was more real than what we had.” 47 likes
“And then it hits me: I've lost you. You now rank among the things I'll always regret: opportunities lost, children never had, things I might have accomplished or done far better, lovers who have come and gone.” 32 likes
More quotes…