The Godfather by Mario Puzo
Summary: A searing portrayal of the Mafia underworld, The Godfather introduces readers to the first family of American crime fiction, the Corleones. The Corleones have a powerful legacy of tradition, blood, and honor. These are the themes that have resonated with millions of readers around the world and made The Godfather is the definitive novel of the violent subculture of the Mob, steeped in intrigue and controversy, remains indelibly etched in our collective consciousness.
I am always a fan of a good crime drama, and gangster stories are my absolute faves. Since The Godfather Saga might be my favorite gangster story of all time, I was super excited to read the source material. 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.
The novel includes side stories that give more insight of secondary characters from the movie 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 wants nothing to do with La Cosa Nostra. He actually wants to be a mathematics professor!!! In the end, Michael is his father’s child and has the skills to be the Don the Corleone Family needs. Although, he might not be the Don the Corleone Family wants.
The writing is not so great. This should come as no surprise if you know Mario Puzo only wrote the book as a money grab. Plus, Puzo commits the major writer faux pas of telling the reader what he should be showing the reader. He relies 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?
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. My deep knowledge of The Godfather movie probably tainted my response to the novel. I want to hear how someone who is not as familiar with the movie felt about The Godfather.
I would be amiss if this review did not touch on the anti-blackness within The Godfather. 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 is a story of the realized American Dream for an Italian immigrant family, I was not surprised by the story’s anti-blackness. It is a reflection of the anti-blackness that permeates most immigrant communities. The only thing more American than apple pie is anti-blackness. #Message
Another disheartening aspect of the book was the lackadaisical domestic violence. Luckily it is not through the entire book like the casual racism. When it showed up, it came hard! Not only does Carlo beat Connie with hardly any consequence, Connie’s parents blame her as the purveyor of her own abuse. Once again, this serves as a warning to anyone who is sensitive to the subject of domestic violence. 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. However, my adoration for The Godfather movie biases my opinion of the novel. The Godfather is a definite must-read book for anyone who loves a good crime/gangster story. Rating: Page Turner