The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano
Photo: Ben Goldstein/Studio D
1. What pleasure or power do Mattia and Alice get from harming their bodies? Think about the moments in the novel when these acts occur. Do you think they are in response to something and, if so, what?

2. There is a brief moment at Viola's party where Alice and Mattia walk together and their respective scars seem to melt into one another and disappear. How? In what other ways are Mattia and Alice complementary?

3. Examine the relationship between Alice and Viola. Based on Alice's feelings toward Viola and Viola's treatment of Alice, what do you think about Alice's actions when they meet later in life?

4. What is it about adolescence that makes people so cruel? What was your own adolescence like? Did Mattia and Alice's experience with their peers echo your own in any way?

5. Where are the parents in this novel? What presence or power do they assert? Why?

6. Was Mattia's action with his sister understandable? Was he aware of the possible consequences or not? Should children be held accountable when their actions have such severe consequences?

7. One of Alice's few pleasures in life is photography, an art that consists of capturing a moment and presenting it according to one's own perspective. Why is this pursuit appropriate for Alice?

8. Mattia believes that "feeling special is the worst kind of cage that a person can build." What do you think he means by this?

9. Do you think Alice really sees Michela in the hospital or was she hallucinating? Why?

10. Examine the last paragraph of the novel. What is being said here? What happens to Alice? What happens to Mattia?

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