The Solitude of Prime Numbers Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Solitude of Prime Numbers

The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano is about two loners haunted by individual childhood tragedies: Alice nearly dying in a skiing accident after trying to impress her demanding father, and Mattia leaving and ultimately losing his mentally disabled sister, Michela, in order to attend a friend's birthday party without her as an embarrassing sidekick. Following these misfortunes, Alice walks with a limp and is severely anorexic, and Mattia is an extreme cutter.
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The two outcasts meet at a high school party. The popular girls that Alice so deeply wants to fit in with, specifically the Queen Bee Viola, sets them up in a room to hookup. However, because both are awkward around other people, neither is able to make the first move, even though they both want to. In order to save face to the party outside, Alice grabs Mattia's hand while exiting the room as though they have been intimate. This makes Mattia's friend Denis jealous, since, as we later learn, he is gay.

The following day, Viola writes Alice out of her life for poisoning the party, saying that the food dish Alice brought made everyone sick. In a fit of despair, Alice coaxes Mattia into the girls' bathroom and asks him to slice off the violet tattoo she had gotten around her navel in honor of Viola. The reason she asks him is because of all the scars on his hands from cutting. Although tempted to help Alice, Mattia is unable to hurt her.

The book then jumps four years into the future, their senior year of high school. In the scene, Mattia and Alice are very close friends, hanging out in her bedroom. For fun, she tries on her mother's wedding dress, and makes Mattia wear his father's tuxedo. She snaps a photo of them her new passion and the two come close to kissing, but don't.

Again the book skips into the future, this time three years. They lost touch when Mattia went away to university for mathematics. Alice ends up marrying a doctor, Fabio, who is caring for her dying mother. On the outside it looks as though their lives are heading in positive directions. However, they are unable to move forward emotionally. Alice's eating disorder drives away her husband, and Mattia can't stop cutting, which drives away his parents. The two come close to telling each other their true feelings, but don't. They ultimately end up separate, alone, prime numbers.
Best part of story, including ending: Overall I like it. The language is beautiful - the author certainly has a way with weaving words. However, the ending is horribly depressing, so beware.

Best scene in story: I like the scene when Alice asks Mattia to cut away her tattoo. Oddly, it's the most seductive scene. Mattia notices Alice's smell, and realizes that he's never been that close to another person's body before.

Opinion about the main character: I dislike how weak both characters are, specifically Mattia. Alice is ready to make a go at it with him by the end of the book, she just needs a sign from him. He passes this opportunity up even though she's given him every indication that he is safe.

The review of this Book prepared by Sarah T. Schwab a Level 1 Blue Jay scholar

Chapter Analysis of The Solitude of Prime Numbers

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   depressed Time/era of story    -   2000+ (Present Day) Romance/Romance Problems    -   Yes Internal struggle/realization?    -   Yes Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Brain/Body disability?    -   mental illness Lover is    -   mentally ill

Main Character

Gender    -   Female Profession/status:    -   artist Ethnicity/Nationality    -   White (American) Unusual characteristics:    -   Physically sick


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   5 () Small town?    -   Yes Misc setting    -   fancy mansion

Writing Style

Amount of dialog    -   significantly more descript than dialog

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