The Solitude of Prime Numbers, By Paolo Giordano

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The Independent Culture

This best-sellling Italian novel of childhood tragedy and its legacy treads a fine line between pathos and bathos. Paolo Giordano sparingly employs the lonely music of the primes as a symbol of post-traumatic grief.

Both maths prodigy Mattia and kindred spirit Alice have family secrets that hang like lead, plunging schooldays into an agony of missed connections.

In the novel's second half, the mystery at the heart of Mattia's "terrifying abyss" moves towards a resolution. In a graceful translation by Shaun Whiteside, this debut multiplies the delicious gloom of youth.