The Godfather by Mario Puzo

The Godfather

The Godfather—the epic tale of crime and betrayal that became a global phenomenon.Almost fifty years ago, a classic was born. 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 power, the pitfalls of greed, and...

Title:The Godfather
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0451205766
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Paperback
Number of Pages:448 pages

The Godfather Reviews

  • Kerstin
    Mar 16, 2008

    I'm one of the people who watched the whole movie trilogy and then after that found out that

    exists as a novel. Naturally, I had to purchase it.

    It is a matter of taste, I suppose, but next to the movies - so elegant and grandiose - it feels a bit like reading pulp fiction. Maybe it's that the book is lacking the presence of charismatic Hollywood giants Marlon Brando and Al Pacino, whose legendary performances rival those of Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in

    . It's h

    I'm one of the people who watched the whole movie trilogy and then after that found out that

    exists as a novel. Naturally, I had to purchase it.

    It is a matter of taste, I suppose, but next to the movies - so elegant and grandiose - it feels a bit like reading pulp fiction. Maybe it's that the book is lacking the presence of charismatic Hollywood giants Marlon Brando and Al Pacino, whose legendary performances rival those of Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in

    . It's hard to tell. I did feel like the story tended to lose focus once in a while in the middle of the excessive subplots concerning the graphicly described sex lives of Johnny Fontane and Lucy Mancini. But I understand that, at the time, the subjects of pornography and death (especially together) were very controversial and obviously helped a lot with the sales, as the author

    himself admitted.

    Anyway... the great thing about the book is that the Corleones are all in there of course; the whole main gang. And they get you hooked on everything they do. Classic storytelling at its best.

    The Godfather is basically an age-old tale about power passing between generations, more precisely from father to (reluctant) son. We have the "kingdom" of Don Vito Corleone and his "three princes". There's the rash and impulsive Santino (Sonny), the dim-witted but soft-hearted Fredo and the handsome and idealistic Michael. Vito also has a neurotic daughter called Connie and an adopted son named Tom Hagen. Who's German-Irish, btw, and works as a lawyer in the "family business".

    Don Vito is a very powerful and respected "wise old man". He is known for his hospitality and seemigly benign, "reasonable" nature. He grants people "favors" and he is such a master of his game that even brutal monsters like Luca Brasi have sworn loyalty to him. In short - he "makes you an offer you can't refuse". Because, in case you do, be prepared to find a dead horse's head in your bed.

    The magic of The Godfather story lies in the fact that it is told entirely from "the inside". Which enables us to care about and relate to characters who, in real life, would be considered despicable as people. It's like an exclusive peek into the closed world of a genuine Italian Mafia family. And we look into this world from a viewpoint similar to the one of Kay Adams - the only outsider in there.

    Vito Corleone makes his living mostly through gambling and prostitution and, staying true to his old-school methods,

    says "no" to drugs. Which is why the other Dons in the New York area decide that he is slipping and it is time to eliminate him. The night Vito is shot, it is his youngest son Michael who shows up in the hospital. Michael is an interesting isolated character. He announces proudly that he doesn't want to have anything to do with the family business and backs this up with his actions. Everything he does is different from his family - he goes to college, joins an army to fight for America and plans to marry a girl who doesn't carry a drop of Italian blood in her, Kay. He starts out as a hero that night, saving his father's life by moving his bed to another room and standing guard on the hospital stairs, displaying qualities (bravery, calculative and cool head under pressure, etc.) that make him an apparent "heir to the throne". When the Corleones work out their revenge strategies, Michael suggests that he should be the one to kill their enemies Virgil "The Turk" Sollozzo and the corrupt police captain McCluskey (who has assaulted him with a heavy punch in the face). Against all odds, he ends up executing the two men in an Italian restaurant, during one of the most thrilling and suspenseful scenes ever created. Having done away with the immediate threat to his family, he is then in danger and needs to go into exile.

    With Michael's trip to Sicily, the narrative perspective shifts and the story becomes his. He travels through the land of his forefathers and discovers the terrifying and bloody history of this beautiful place - the birthplace of the Mafia. He seeks to "connect with his roots" by marrying a beautiful local girl called Apollonia. But blow after blow is delivered to him in there; first with the news of his brother Sonny's murder at home and then with the tragic death of his innocent wife and unborn child through the explosives planted in his car. Everywhere Michael goes, death follows him. Once he returns to America, he is no longer the man he used to be.

    Michael's transformation from a young war-hero to a ruthless Mafia boss is both fascinating and devastating. And in the end we feel a deep sense of loss, because we've witnessed a man with so much potential for good and a bright, promising future simply sell his soul and go to hell. Was it the result of his decisions or just unfortunate circumstances doesn't even seem to bear real relevance in here - the story plays it out as an inevitability, as if it was always his fate.

    Michael is not the only one left to pay for his father's mistakes in a rather biblical manner, either... all of Vito's children do, in their own ways (poor, poor Fredo).

    The late Mario Puzo has said that The Godfather is first and foremost about family than anything else. But how much a person would do for their family or how much it would cost them to betray their family are not the only issues it brings up. Layers upon layers upon layers of meaning emerges as the story unfolds. Questions that never find answers (unless you're the actor Tom Hanks who's convinced that all of life's questions can be answered by The Godfather).

    It somehow manages to authentically reflect the everyday operations of a criminal empire, be a character-driven psychological drama, a tale of immigrant experience (the backstory of Vito's arrival to America) and a study of Italian-American lifestyle all at the same time. While being structured as a modern myth. No wonder it's so popular.

  • Manny
    Dec 20, 2008

    "Come in."

    "Ah, Don Corleone, I'm sorry to trouble you -"

    "Sit down."

    "Thank you, Don Corleone -"

    "Where is your mother from?"

    "I'm sorry?"

    "Your mother, she is from Italia. Which town?"

  • Kaion
    Feb 04, 2012

    Indeed, dear reader, I did not hate

    . I h-aa-ted it.

    How much did I hate it? Well I could start with a long dissemination of Mario Puzo's simplistic and repetitive prose. Puzo seems to think the reader needs a reminder of plot points that occured ten pages ago, and that unnecessarily drawing out an obvious reveal by splitting it up into three points of view counts as suspense.

    Or I could give you a thorough cataloguing of how very poser-y

    , with its bombastic ideas of mas

    Indeed, dear reader, I did not hate

    . I h-aa-ted it.

    How much did I hate it? Well I could start with a long dissemination of Mario Puzo's simplistic and repetitive prose. Puzo seems to think the reader needs a reminder of plot points that occured ten pages ago, and that unnecessarily drawing out an obvious reveal by splitting it up into three points of view counts as suspense.

    Or I could give you a thorough cataloguing of how very poser-y

    , with its bombastic ideas of masculinity and supposed gritty crime plotlines. And yet for moral convenience, the only people we see the Corleone Family harm are fellow mobsters they are at "war" with (and somehow the Corleones are never the instigators) or else, terrible human beings who are child molesters (I'm not kidding).

    I have an essay on my hard drive about how the worship of this book and the character of Vito Corleone is misguided, as he better represents the utter failure of the American Dream and its corruption of true values... that is

    one takes Puzo's vision seriously at all, which one really shouldn't, as it is just another weak attempt at the myth of the Single Man, as well as obviously only prodding history for hopefully salacious material, rather than having an insight into the times.

    And I could talk on forever about the greatest myth of Puzo's "history" is his adherance to the Madonna-Whore view of his female characters, only slightly amended more specifically in Puzo's case to the Long-Suffering-Wife (Whose-Willingfully-Ignorant-Devotion-To-Her-Husband-Is-Only-Matched-By-Her-Spiritual-Devotion-To-Praying-For-His-Soul) and the Body, of which there are two subtypes, the Vagina (Woman-Who-Only-Exists-As-A-Sexual-Object) and the Victim (Woman-Who-Exists-As-A-Punching-Bag-Usually-For-Plot-Device-Purposes).

    But really that would involve spending more time about thinking about this truly wretched book, and really just

    *:

    There's a whole character in this book-- a secondary character who gets several chapters devoted to PoV-- who is defined by her gaping vagina. Yes, literally. Her whole character is about her large vagina. We get a whole decades-spanning arc about her large vagina, because really, what else could possibly be more riveting about any woman? What other possible characteristics could any woman have that would be more important than that?

    Do I really need to say more?

    *It was this or an haiku about watching the pages burn, but I don't believe in book burning and I could never top Bradbury anyway, so this is what you get instead.

  • Fabian
    Feb 27, 2014

    Puzo creates his awesome world & then plays with his own elements (those of detective noir and mob drama) like a world-class chess champion. Less than a fourth into the narrative, POW! the Don has been shot. And, hold on a sec, who is the protagonist here? I thought Michael. Or the Consigliari Hagen. Or Hollywood heart-throb Johnny Fontaine? The full display of individual destinies is what makes this better than its cinematic equivalent. Here we see flesh-and-blood people living at a Hadean

    Puzo creates his awesome world & then plays with his own elements (those of detective noir and mob drama) like a world-class chess champion. Less than a fourth into the narrative, POW! the Don has been shot. And, hold on a sec, who is the protagonist here? I thought Michael. Or the Consigliari Hagen. Or Hollywood heart-throb Johnny Fontaine? The full display of individual destinies is what makes this better than its cinematic equivalent. Here we see flesh-and-blood people living at a Hadean level-- system of business ethics and family morality included. Anyway, the novel's true nature is "the nature of the universe, the interlinking of good & evil, natural of itself." (392)

    Masterful!-- As close as there is to a SOAP OPERA for MEN. The need for reinvention, as well as the necessity to keep things in line with tradition are explored fully. Interesting to note are: the general absence of Fredo, the omnipresence of Johnny Fontaine... the Hollywood sex parties in detail (and how's this for risqué [and appropriate to the season]: Best Actor & Best Actress in public sex), plus invaluable insights (like the entire Book V, largely absent from the beloved film) as bizarre as sexual readjustment surgeries and as natural as mob allegiances in Vegas. This is pure entertainment-- decadence for the reader at full throttle!!!! This is a classic train of portraits of a kingdom in steep decline, of its vindication and revolution, rife with those beloved Shakespearean precepts like corruption, revenge & fate.

  • Stephanie
    Sep 26, 2014

    I have watched the awesome movie several times (as well as Godfather 2 and 3) and LOVED it... Finally, read the book and it was worth it! Got a bit more background and color around some of the characters and didn't mind re-visiting the Corleone family!!

    I think that most people are well familiar with the plot; therefore, not going to recap it again.

    Let's just leave it at - this is a book focusing on bad guys / mafia with a lot of action -- violence, sex, alcohol

    I have watched the awesome movie several times (as well as Godfather 2 and 3) and LOVED it... Finally, read the book and it was worth it! Got a bit more background and color around some of the characters and didn't mind re-visiting the Corleone family!!

    I think that most people are well familiar with the plot; therefore, not going to recap it again.

    Let's just leave it at - this is a book focusing on bad guys / mafia with a lot of action -- violence, sex, alcohol. It is intense and will keep you riveted...

    Better not cross him!!

    One of the most memorable parts of the movie was creepily depicted in more detail in the book:

    Yes, I used a cartoon so as to keep the review PG....

    Good quotes:

    My only complaint... the role of women in the family (subservient!! )... what was this from the 40's? Or the 70's?? The way that women were portrayed ticked me off, but didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of the book...

    I would recommend this book to anyone who has seen and enjoyed the movie and lovers of historical fiction or people interested in learning more about gangsters!

    Now, I need to go and watch the movie again!!

    Ciao!

  • Ahmed
    Nov 16, 2014
  • Diana
    Mar 26, 2015

    if u haven't read this please do...a treasure to keep forever

  • Brina
    Jun 16, 2017

    Mario Puzo wrote The Godfather, a book that was to become an instant classic, at a time when both his personal life and that of the United States were in transition. Puzo's first two novels had not sold well, and he was almost penniless. A young, up and coming author, Puzo sought to write his version of the great American novel that would also work well on the silver screen. Meanwhile, in a time of war, the nation was beginning to view the mafia rather than Cowboys as the great American hero. Ac

    Mario Puzo wrote The Godfather, a book that was to become an instant classic, at a time when both his personal life and that of the United States were in transition. Puzo's first two novels had not sold well, and he was almost penniless. A young, up and coming author, Puzo sought to write his version of the great American novel that would also work well on the silver screen. Meanwhile, in a time of war, the nation was beginning to view the mafia rather than Cowboys as the great American hero. According to afterward author Peter Bart, America's perception of the mafia as positive citizens is what allowed Puzo to thrust The Godfather into the forefront of American society.

    As someone who has never experienced the award winning film starring Marlon Brando and Al Pacino, Don Corleone and the world he created were new to me. Vito Corleone had immigrated from Sicily to New York in the early 1900s, and, after a few lucky breaks, quickly established himself as one of the leaders of the crime underworld. Using his olive oil import business as a cover to make himself look like a law abiding citizen, Don Corleone's empire grew through his connections with politicians, police, and other officials. Along with his consigliere and caporegimes, Corleone instilled respect and fear into those who dared go against the most powerful mafia family in the nation.

    Being a mafiosa has its costs, however. Corleone's wife through forty years of marriage was never able to be his equal partner. The mafia and everything that went with it was kept secret and separate from family life. Crimes split apart families, forged both likely and unlikely alliances, and one never knew who he could trust. Despite the awe with which people viewed the Don, even he did not feel safe outside of his self-made mall fortress on Long Island. As a result even his wife, daughter-in-law, and especially son-in-law were kept out of the business that was to remain for all times in the family.

    The one protagonist who questioned the function of the mafia yet never wavered in his support of his family was the Don's youngest son Michael. A war hero and Dartmouth educated, Michael Corleone desired that his future children and grand children would be lawyers, bankers, maybe even the president, rather than have to go into the family business. Rather than marrying a Sicilian girl, he chose as his life partner a New England Yankee named Kay Adams. The two experience unconditional love yet even Kay, an Ivy League educated woman of the baby boom generation, is not told everything that occurs within the business. Like his father before him, Michael Corleone differentiates his marriage from his place in the family business.

    As a Chicagoan, I always associated the mafia with Al Capone, the top Italian crime lord of the city. Viewed in a negative light, Capone alone was responsible for outsiders negative perception of Chicago for many years. Even Puzo and Don Corleone view Capone as an outlier, a crazy who is not invited to be part of the national network of Dons. In Don Corleone, Mario Puzo has created a persona who shifts people's views of the role of the mafia. While there might be killings in revenge on occasion, the Don assists his people in a time of need in the role of an inner city Italian Robin Hood. Some of the activities may be illegal, yet they are overlooked as even rival crime families view Don Vito Corleone with nothing but the utmost respect and reverence.

    Following The Godfather's debut on screen, Mario Puzo never again rose to a high level of prominence. He was known as an extension of the character he created and often asked to impart words of wisdom on the Don's behalf. After three sequels, including the second part which also garnered awards, Puzo's ground breaking work lead to generations of mafia and crime family movies, most recently the Sopranos. Yet, there would be no Tony Soprano if Mario Puzo had not created Vito Corleone and his world, changing people's views of the mafia. I rate this captivating, game changing novel 4.5 stars.

    Afterward:

    After viewing the movie for the first time, I am impressed how closely it stuck to the book down to the minutest detail. For a three hour movie, the scenes moved quickly leaving me captivated and on edge. I found the acting to be stellar, especially Don Corleone himself Marlon Brando. Even if Puzo's other novels did not receive as high ratings, I am looking forward to The Godfather Part II. Puzo and director Francis Ford Coppola indeed made a perfect team and left Americans with a true classic.


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