Book #40: The Godfather

The Random Number Gods made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

I must admit – I was so excited to read Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. I’ve seen the movie (let’s be honest – who hasn’t?). I had to watch it for a films class my last semester of college. I remember enjoying it. I Marlon Brando in The Godfatherwas drawn into the story, but my friend Arta and I also spent a lot of time mocking Marlon Brando. We decided that he talked like he was storing grapes or crab apples in his cheeks. It may have “ruined” some of the more poignant moments (like when he says he will forgo vengeance for his son), because when he was talking, one of us would make a comment like, “You saving some grapes for later?” or “Are you a squirrel?”

All kidding aside, it really was a great performance. I later learned that Brando stuffed cotton balls into his cheeks to change his speech and help his accent. Pure genius. For real.

Anyway, I started reading The Godfather knowing the basic plot. I was expecting maybe a bit more description or maybe a few more scenes than the movie. I was surprised by how much more detail Puzo put into the book. On the other hand, I was also surprised at how much of the plot made it into the movie. 

To be honest, I didn’t think the book was terribly well-written. The old, over-stated creative writing class cliche “show, don’t tell” was kind of ignored. A lot of the time, events were merely described, but I didn’t feel like I was in the moment. This was especially at the beginning of the book. At parts, there was almost a sense of “The Don said it, and then two weeks later it happened.” But maybe that was what Puzo was going for.

Despite the writing, I was impressed with Puzo. The amount of detail and life he gave to almost every single character is amazing. So many people have backstories, and Puzo has thought them all out and taken the time to add them into the story. I got to hear about each of the Dons that came to the meeting in New York City. I got to find out about each of the people who helped the Family, as well as some of the opponents of the Family. It really made the Mafia world come to life. Even the periphery characters weren’t just people who were part of the narrative. They were people with their own histories and stories and motives. By giving them all backstories, Puzo made them real people and made the story that much more engaging.

I could not stop reading The Godfather. I was so absorbed in the world that I couldn’t stop thinking about it. That, for me, is the mark of a good book.

My favorite story, I think, was Johnny Fontane’s. Really, I enjoyed the development of the entire Nevada storyline. It was kind of tangental to the whole power struggle in New York storyline, but for some reason I really liked it. I liked watching Fontane develop as a character and go through struggles as he lost his voice and his career and then slowly built it up again. I liked the intrigue of his Hollywood life and his connections to the Family back home too.

Overall, I really, really enjoyed The Godfather. I’m planning on reading the rest of the series too. I haven’t seen those movies, either, so the plot will certainly be a surprise.

(Of course, I’ve heard that the movies, at least, get a little ridiculous or something, so we’ll see what happens…)

Rating: ****
Up Next: Virgin Soil
(after a break for a few non-list books. First up is The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein)


One response to this post.

  1. Why do you come to me like this, the day of my daughter’s wedding?


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