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The Solitude of Prime Numbers

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  53,648 ratings  ·  4,445 reviews
A bestselling international literary sensation about whether a "prime number" can ever truly connect with someone else.

A prime number can only be divided by itself or by one—it never truly fits with another. Alice and Mattia, both "primes," are misfits who seem destined to be alone. Haunted by childhood tragedies that mark their lives, they cannot reach out to anyone else.
Hardcover, 271 pages
Published March 18th 2010 by Pamela Dorman Books (first published July 1st 2008)
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Average rating 3.61  · 
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Aug 20, 2012 rated it liked it
I finished this book moments ago and find myself irritated instead of thoughtful. I want to love this novel, it's unusual, bleak, as real and demanding as gum stuck to your shoe, but there is no payoff for my time spent with it. Each painstakingly set-up scenario of adolescent and adult angst/trauma is left dangling like a series of complicated esher drawings that lead nowhere and are partially erased.

The author's style is raw and minimal. He's able to occupy a girl/woman's psyche as seamlessly
Jan 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: south, fiction
This book is going to be big. But, people still don't know that, people still haven't heard about Paolo Giordano and his brilliant, brilliant work called, 'The solitude of prime numbers'', which stands on the same magnificent title throne with Kundera’s, ''Unbearable lightness of being''. And The solitude of prime numbers, easy to say, broke my heart.

Primary numbers are natural numbers that are divided only with number 1 and itself. In this book, in a human form of numbers, Alice and Mattia are
Elyse  Walters
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Library Overdrive ebook .....🌴FANTASTIC.....A HUGE SURPRISE.....
I CAN’T BELIEVE NOBODY ***HIGHLY RECOMMENDED*** this book to me. I literally picked it from the library- KNEW NOTHING.....
Then....quickly did a run-down of ratings on Goodreads. I read a few 3 star reviews - but nobody was raving about it....
Then I saw a 4 star review from Marialyce. She didn’t ‘rave’ ...but said it was touching and sad ......”and in a way compelling to read of these children who grew up so far removed from affectio
Apr 29, 2012 rated it did not like it
The idea is beautiful. Compare people to numbers, compare the loneliness of people who don't know how to belong to the otherness of prime numbers, and thus imply that there could be resolution to their alienation because it's part of a logical pattern, and if they can't belong to everyone, at least they can belong to each other.

However, other than the fact that Mattia, one of the main characters, is a genius mathematician, and one passage where he introduces the concept of twin prime numbers, th
Mrs. Sor
Dec 26, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Absolute disappointment.
One of the worst book I've ever read.
The flatness of the characters is an insult to the reader.
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: italian
Developmental Agony

I’m not sure how this book has been marketed or how I encountered it, but it’s definitely YA not adult fiction. Lots of schmaltzy tragedy and teenage angst with a core of unlikely coincidence. Very hard going if you’re over age 21 I suspect. Definitely a waste of time for an old stump such as myself. The most significant effect of reading the thing is a feeling of vaguely regretful embarrassment for an afternoon I can’t recover. So unless you’re into mean girls, oblivious pare
Jim Fonseca
Oct 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: italian-authors
Take two special education kids, a boy and a girl. One is a cutter and may have Asperger's syndrome. Both are loners who are socially challenged and basically misfits. Romance is a rocky road for normal couples. Magnify those bumps in the road by the handicaps that these two individuals deal with and you have a relationship that is exponentially difficult to pull off. That's basically the plot of this book. Just as they never get their individual lives together, they can never get their romance ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
La Solitudine Dei Numeri Primi = The Solitude of Prime Numbers, Paolo Giordano
The Solitude of Prime Numbers, is a novel by the Italian author Paolo Giordano, published in 2008. As a seven-year-old girl, Alice Della Rocca is forced by her father to take skiing lessons, although she hates the ski school and has no particular aptitude for the sport. One morning, Alice is separated from the rest of the group and falls off a cliff, sustaining serious injuries. Alice will remain crippled for the rest
Sep 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
His number: 2760889966649

Her number: 2760889966651

Apparently, one is not the most loneliest number in the world.

From the moment I started reading this book, I couldn't put it down; it was completely engrossing. I can't really begin to think of an accurate way to describe the depth of solitude these two people seemingly want to seek out in their lives because it comforts them. All I know is that I found myself relating on so many levels: in making stupid decisions, in feeling socially awkward, i
3 stars....moments of heartache and a few
passages that were beautifully written comprised about 20% of the book....the rest was not bad but full of two dimensional characters doing and saying very expected was like a made for TV movie from the 1980s that had the occasional glimmer of the unusual that did not last long enough to have a major impact of the experience of the whole....
Lolly K Dandeneau
May 17, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have read other reviews and many people enjoyed the first half best, as did I. I believe the reason being that our youth is bittersweet, even the horrors we suffer from it. The early days for a detached Mattia are spoiled by a tragedy he is responsible for. I was shocked and saddened by the ramifications a choice made as a child seemed to carry for him. One thing I must add, I didn't like how the writer jumped from that tragedy to the future because I really wanted to know what happened in the ...more
This was embarrassingly bad, and the news that it has met with broad critical acclaim is infinitely depressing. Take two "damaged" stick figures, define each only in terms of their 'abnormality', surround them with the standard tableau of distant parents, cruel classmates. Make liberal use of facile, offensive stereotypes, for instance that the only conceivable career option for the emotionally retarded male basket case is to become a mathematician. Because this will allow you to sprinkle in som ...more
Apr 27, 2010 rated it did not like it
Despite the glowing reviews, this book was too depressing for me. The Italian award-winning Physicist author, Paolo Giordano, has a polished minimalist style that I admired, but the characters were, ultimately, so damaged, insular and cold that the book may well have been titled, "The Abject Loneliness of Dysfunctional People." The real title reflects the mathematical fluke of “special primes,” prime numbers that are close, such as 13 and 15, but ultimately still separate. It also describes the ...more
The only experience that can rival reading a really great book is reading a really awful one and ripping it on goodreads; especially if, like this one, it comes with glowing recommendations. Except for some of the writing (maybe), this book had absolutely no redeeming feature. It was one of the most depressing books I have ever read, with no redemption and completely non-endearing self-involved characters who were either pathetic, sadistic, or both. You didn’t want anything good to happen to the ...more
James Henderson
Aug 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: italian-lit
While all fiction emanates from the imagination it is rare that a work successfully mimics the language of dreams. The Solitude of Prime Numbers comes as close to doing so as any novel I have read in recent memory. The incidents of the characters' lives are blended together by the young author, Paolo Giordano, in a way that suggests their lives exist, fictionally, on the edge of reality. The main characters, Alice and Mattia, are in a state of continual wonder both of the world that surrounds th ...more
Mar 26, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a an oddly stark book, melancholy in tone, but heartbreakingly beautiful. I often read to escape, to feel lighter, but The Solitude of Prime Numbers added weight to my heart, almost unbearably. Reading the stories of Alice and Mattia, the two damaged souls at the heart of this book, was a pleasure, but definitely not an escape. The translation from Italian is really flawless, I did not see one sentence that seemed awkward. I read The Solitude of Prime Numbers last night, but I have a fe ...more
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Solitude of Prime Numbers broke my heart multiple times, ruthlessly.

A prime number can only be divided by one or itself. Then there are prime numbers like 17 and 19, 41 and 43 and so on. The thing about these numbers is that they will always, till the end of the world, be separated by a wall, a number, be it 18, 42 and many others. These numbers can never come together in any other place. That's their solitude. That's their fate.

Alice and Mattia have the same scenario. I read this book in t
May 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Yep ... a year later, still a solid 5 stars.

I love it when I get rocked unexpectedly by a book. The characters in this book so drew me in and seemed so utterly real (even though the book spans a couple of decades and alternates between the male and female protagonists).

On top of that, was the sheer beauty of the writing. Every so often, I would read a sentence ... stop ... and realize "Wow, that was incredible" and would have to read it again. Given that it was written originally in Italian, par
Sep 29, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-extra
Warning: This review gets a bit 'geeky'.

Prime numbers are not defined in terms of other numbers; other numbers are defined by their prime factors. Primes greater than three are separated by at least one non-prime, paired primes by only one. Paired primes become less frequent as numbers get larger.
That is the mathematical truth behind Paolo Giordano's novel.
He introduces the idea that people can be defined in this way: that some people are like prime numbers and cannot be defined in terms of othe
Apr 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
A lovely novel by a gifted author. It is a story of a lifelong, ambiguous but inescapable relationship between a intellectually gifted but socially awkward mathematical genius, and a conflicted, anorexic woman with a great sensibility but also with a chronic incapacity to deal with her own life in a positive manner.
Two kindred, damaged spirits who are attracted to each other by their unique sensibility and by their solitude, but who find it very arduous to fill the existential gap between the t
Jan 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lavinia by: Jana
Shelves: in-en, fiction, 2011
I read it with constant lumps in my throat, secretly hoping, wishfully thinking... It's probably the kind of book you want to get back to, every now and then.

Let me just add that I've found the book surprisingly global, there's nothing Italian in it except the names; it could be anyone anywhere. Smart move, Paolo!
Plus, I did something I'd never tried before: read a foreign book in English translation.
Oct 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: italian, italy
This book is written by the 26 years old Italian paolo Giordano, who won the premio strega with his first book this year. read it in two days and felt like I flew through it, didn't felt like putting it down and was constantly thinking to continue reading it. I had imagined or hoped it would end different but maybe that would have been too easy. Maybe better the way it did end... ...more
Cait Poytress
Apr 21, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: owned, ebook, read-in-2014
Shit. Nicely written shit, but still shit.
Apr 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is the sort of book I always hope to find while browsing at the library, something that I've never heard of before and end up loving. To describe this book as a love story would be kind of like describing Taj Mahal as a building, apt enough but terribly inadequate. This is a story of two lost and severely damaged by childhood traumas individuals who continuously struggle to fit in with the world and each other. As far as character studies go, these ones are superb and executed with great ca ...more
Jun 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a beauty! I found the style and feel very reminiscent of a lot of novels from the Netherlands and Scandinavia. Seemed a bit "un-Italian", but in a good, stimulating way. Clever story, and --apparently the title wasn't thought up by the author -- it's the greatest title ever. I highly recommend this book. ...more
ash c
Jan 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary
Read this many many years back but can't remember much other than I enjoyed it. ...more
♥ Ibrahim ♥
Jun 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
This book is a poignant story of characters who have experienced trauma and who long to have closeness but because of wounds of the past they lack the ability to draw near. The author’s use of the prime number analogy is beautiful and painful in its image. He writes with feeling and understanding of deep sorrow, compassion for the brokeness in us all. His ability to see the different characters perspectives and the “whys” of their behavior is beautiful. This story is a hard one in its pain, but ...more
Rihab Sebaaly
Jul 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
It’s 7 in the morning, and I’ve woke up at 4 am because simply I wasn’t able to sleep leaving Mattia and Alice’ story suspended like that….
“They were too real!”
It did not need any effort to see them, they were so clear, well described, well created…
Reading this book was like watching a movie. I usually don’t like this kind of writings when the writer describes everything without giving you any chance to imagine or to leave your trace over his novel. But this novel was really different, I enjoye
Serious dissapointment. Ideas great, but completely destroyed in the execution.
The idea is beautiful. Compare people to numbers, compare the loneliness of people who don't know how to belong to the otherness of prime numbers, and thus imply that there could be resolution to their alienation because it's part of a logical pattern, and if they can't belong to everyone, at least they can belong to each other. (Perfectly said, from another review.)

Prime numbers is mathematician Mattie's thing. He
Mary Ann
Apr 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Rebecca Case
Recommended to Mary Ann by: Christy
This is a gem of a book. Two brilliant misfits, marked by early childhood trauma, come together as adolescents. Each rejoices in the "differentness" of the other. What follows is a story of joy and intimacy, pain and alienation, of missed opportunities, of deliberate choices over many years as their paths repeatedly cross. The book is a translation from Italian, but it is extremely well done. The title is singularly apt. Readers who are only satisfied with an unadulterated "happy ending" should ...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.
Paolo Giordano is a professional physicist and is currently working on a doctorate in particle physics. The Solitude of Prime Numbers, his first novel, took Italy by storm where it has sold over a million copies. It is being translated into twenty languages and has sold all

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