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Title: The Godfather
Author: Mario Puzo
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publication Date: 1969
Summary: A searing portrayal of the Mafia underworld, The Godfather introduced readers to the first family of American crime fiction, the Corleones, and their powerful legacy of tradition, blood, and honor. The seduction of the power, the pitfalls of greed, and the allegiance to family–these are the themes that have resonated with millions of readers around the world and made The Godfather the definitive novel of the violent subculture that, steeped in intrigue and controversy, remains indelibly etched in our collective consciousness.
I am always a fan of a good crime drama and murder mystery, and I freaking LOVE gangster stories, so I was super excited to read the book that inspired one of my all-time favorite movies. If you are a fan of the movie, then you kind of already know how the story goes. However, there are more details to expand your view of the movie, and the book includes side stories to give more insight of inconsequential characters like Johnny Fontane and Lucy Mancini. Overall, The Godfather is an intriguing portrayal of the prodigal son returning home and taking over the family business. Michael wanted nothing to do with la cosa nostra…he actually wanted to be a mathematics professor!!! But Michael is his father’s child and has all the skills to be the Don the Corleone Family needs even is he is not the Don the Corleone Family wants.
The writing is not so great, which should come no surprise if you heard Mario Puzo only wrote the book as a money grab. Plus, the author suffers from the major writer faux pas of telling the reader what he should be showing the reader, and he relies way too heavily on tired clichés. How many times can I read about all the “icy” and “chilling” stares from Michael that gave onlookers Don Vito déjà vu? And I usually enjoy non-traditional storytelling, which Puzo relies on heavily for almost 500 pages. However, in this story, the jumping back and forth through timelines and the character’s lives felt overtly disjointed, and mostly took away the building momentum in the story. I will admit these feelings could be tainted by my deep knowledge of the story’s progression in the movie version. I would love to hear how someone who is not as familiar with the movie version felt about the book’s storytelling.
I would be amiss in my “wokeness” if I completed this review without touching on the anti-blackness that is strewn throughout the novel. If nothing else, this serves as a trigger warning to others who may find it hard to get through the book when coming across those passages. Since The Godfather can be seen as a story of the realized American Dream for an Italian immigrant family it comes as no surprise to me as a black American to read a fictionalized version of the anti-blackness that permeates lots of immigrant communities. Because if you don’t know, the only thing more American than apple pie is anti-blackness. (MESSAGE!)
Another aspect of the book that was disheartening was the lackadaisical domestic violence. Luckily it is not through the entire book like the everyday racism, but when it showed up, it hit me HARD! Not only is Carlo able to beat Connie with hardly any consequence, Connie is also blamed as the purveyor of her own abuse by her parents. Once again, this review serves as a warning to anyone who is sensitive to this subject. I know it was hard for me to stomach the concept of a woman doing anything that would make her deserve to be beaten by her husband.
Even with the problematic stuff, I still enjoyed the story. Although, as previously mentioned this enjoyment could be considered quite biased.
The Final Grade
Page Turner: This book should be a definite read for anyone who loves a good crime/gangster story.
So…who was your favorite character? Were you able to enjoy the book despite the anti-black racism and misogyny? Did you enjoy the non-traditional storytelling method? Let us know in the comments! |RL