“Friendship is everything. Friendship is more than talent. It is more than the government. It is almost the equal of family."
I'm not a big Mafia fan. In fact, I didn't even see the first Godfather film until my later twenties, and with that I found the bits and pieces dreadfully slow. It took time, finessing, and patience to start seeing the hidden intrigue and subtle glamours.
Reading The Godfather even if now I'm a big fan of the film series (I'm such a Pacino nerdette), but it was never high on my list of reading ambitions. Sure, it's a highly rated book, spawned a blockbuster, but so did plenty of dry, military tombs which bore me to tears.
Originally being in a long list of books I would "eventually get to," I only picked it up because it was on the floor near me when I was also on the floor organizing the book closet. Needing a break (and being lazy as usual), I decided to randomly start reading the first page. What drew me in wasn't the story nor even the opening - it was the writing style. I found out quickly that I LOVE Puzo's writing style. There's something about the way he crafts his words, blends them together, always to the point, never going into poetic territory but somehow always hanging over the brink of it.
The story told is a well known because of the movies. Generally I don't mention the movie form much in book reviews, but with The Godfather it's inevitable and the review wouldn't be the same without it. The story stays with the same and the adaption to the movie is spot on. They changed little, even keeping most of the dialogue and order identical for the scenes including. The exception is the flashbacks of Vito Corleone's early life, and there were of course some smaller scenes which weren't included in the movie for time and pacing sake.
Switching point of view among many can be problematic for readers (especially me, too frequent head hopping is always a pet peeve), but with this case the hopping only happens when it makes sense and is done subtly and effectively. The tale is a traditional one with extra punch - the son who doesn't want to become the father, the importance of family, and the struggles of power. I found the theories of the Italian mindset and mafia goals added into the story fascinating, a cultural difference in society that I never personally encountered (and doubtfully ever will.)
When a story has a villain, villains are usually more effective and enjoyable when they are three dimensional (they have good traits as well) Much of the book explains the godfathers mindset, reasoning, philosophies, and strict sense of his version of honor. It's not done in a preachy way; in fact, interestingly no other viewpoint is ever seen, experienced, or given from opposing characters.
The slow ascension into power by Michael Corleone is powerful. Even if the book has some slow scenes and isn't gripping in an action sense, it doesn't need to be as it's clearly a drama filled tale. Michael is realistic as the son who wishes to set apart with his own future, pulled in eventually by honor learned after tainting himself. Vito is equally fascinating with his past, his present, his philosophies. I really hold no bad thoughts toward any of the characters and when their viewpoints are used.
It's easy seeing why this one became such a seller and was made successfully into a popular movie. Even if the cultural presence isn't a reality we all personally experience, it's easily understood and to a point agreed with. The struggle among father and son and setting a person's own path is an age old story always enjoyed as it DOES affect people even today and always will.
Quotes from the book:
“I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse.” - Vito
“Revenge is a dish that tastes best when served cold.” - Michael
“The lawyer with the briefcase can steal more money than the man with the gun.” - Vito
“A man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man.” - Vito
Quotes from the book: