The Godfather

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...

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Title:The Godfather
Author:Mario Puzo
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.

  • Israel
    Jul 15, 2008

    The epic masterpiece of mafia fiction. Puzo is good and entertaining elsewhere, here is great and masterful. It is to mobster books what Godfather parts 1 & 2 are to mobster movies...a standard that can never be equalled. What really intrigues me about Puzo's presentation of the Corleone family, and something that does not translate as explicitly to the screen, is the incredible sense of moral and religious conviction that what they do is right and good. At times I found myself believing tha

    The epic masterpiece of mafia fiction. Puzo is good and entertaining elsewhere, here is great and masterful. It is to mobster books what Godfather parts 1 & 2 are to mobster movies...a standard that can never be equalled. What really intrigues me about Puzo's presentation of the Corleone family, and something that does not translate as explicitly to the screen, is the incredible sense of moral and religious conviction that what they do is right and good. At times I found myself believing that the Corleone's were right to be who they were, or at the very least, that such a way of life in de-centralized Sicily, if not in 20th century America, was appropriate. Puzo does everything in this book; action, drama, romance, epic, humanity, pulp, and he does it all effortlessly. One minute you're reading about a fictional mafioso and the next minute you realize you've stumbled on one of the great literary accomplishments of the century. I love books that make it hard to know how to feel about the characters. No single literary character is as conflicting for me as Michael Corleone. And so, few books intrigue me more. It is a book to be cherished.

  • 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 and then plays with his own elements (those of detective noir and mob drama) like a world-class chess champion. Less than 1/4th 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

    Puzo creates his awesome world and then plays with his own elements (those of detective noir and mob drama) like a world-class chess champion. Less than 1/4th 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 and 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

  • Matt
    Apr 07, 2015

    I’m sure you’ve had the timeless book-verses-movie argument before. Everyone has. You’re standing at the water cooler at work, and a coworker comes up to you and says “Boy,

    is an excellent movie!” And maybe you say something back like “Michael Ondaatje’s Booker-Prize winning novel is far superior.” At that point, your coworker calls you a “pretentious snob” and you respond with “sewer-dwelling ignorance peddler.” There is some cursing. Maybe someone throws water on the other.

    I’m sure you’ve had the timeless book-verses-movie argument before. Everyone has. You’re standing at the water cooler at work, and a coworker comes up to you and says “Boy,

    is an excellent movie!” And maybe you say something back like “Michael Ondaatje’s Booker-Prize winning novel is far superior.” At that point, your coworker calls you a “pretentious snob” and you respond with “sewer-dwelling ignorance peddler.” There is some cursing. Maybe someone throws water on the other. That’s the argument. It is great fun, and an eminently worthwhile way to spend the moments God gives us.

    poses an interesting twist on this question. Which is better? Mario Puzo’s bestselling novel, or Francis Ford Coppola’s Academy Award-winning film?

    The answer is both. Or neither. They are the same. Not just the same extremely high quality, but almost literally the same. If I were an alien visiting earth, I would believe it if someone told me that Puzo’s

    was actually a novelization of Coppola’s movie. (I assume, if I were an alien visiting Earth, the topic of movie novelizations would eventually arise).

    That is not the case, of course. Puzo’s novel was published in 1969. Coppola’s film came out in 1972, and spawned two sequels, one of which is worth mentioning.

    At this point,

    legacy is so pervasive that I feel like my job is done. Even if you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, you probably know all the plot points, character beats, and one liners. There’s nothing more to say. However, since I get paid by the word, I’ll keep going.

    tells the story of the Corleone family. They are typical American strivers who immigrated from Italy, started a business selling olive oil, and are part of the Mafia. The patriarch of the family – the Godfather – is Vito Andolini Corleone, a distant and reticent man of near-omnipotent powers. He is surrounded by three sons: hotheaded Santino (Sonny); weak and obedient Frederico (Fredo); and young World War II hero Michael, who when the novel opens has never been part of “the family business.” The family’s consigliere, or advisor, is the Irish-American orphan Tom Hagan.

    The novel – like the film – opens the wedding of Don Corleone’s daughter Connie. This is an excellent device for introducing on the main characters, their roles within the hierarchy, and the Don’s far-reaching power.

    (I could spend all day comparing the book to the film. I promise I won’t. But I’d feel remiss if I failed to mention how much time is spent on a character named Lucy Mancini. In the film, we see her for a second – she is the bridesmaid with whom Sonny has sexual congress. In the novel, she is treated like a major character, even though her plot arc has nothing to do with the central narrative. And do you want to know what her plot arc is? I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying that it is a pelvic floor problem. Sonny, you see, was the only man with enough manhood – so to speak – to satisfy Lucy. Puzo, for reasons lost to history, decides to devote an entire section of the novel to Lucy’s pelvic floor surgery. I’m not making this up. I’m not clever enough to make this up).

    The precipitating event of

    is the attempted assassination of Don Corleone by an up-and-comer named Virgil “the Turk” Sollozzo, who was mad at the Don because the Don didn't join him in the heroin business. Don Corleone’s wounding puts Sonny in charge and draws Michael into the family business. I don’t need to continue with a plot summary. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what happens next. If you just came out of a long hibernation, I don’t want to spoil anything.

    It is worth noting, despite the comparisons I can’t help making to the movie, that this is a standalone piece of quality fiction. The characters are unforgettable, from the central figure of Don Corleone himself, who is given a lengthy flashback section (familiar to fans of

    ), to secondary characters such as Luca Brasi (a sort of Sicilian Keyser Soze, whose very name terrifies people) and Johnny Fontane (a Frank Sinatra stand-in, given his shot at stardom by the Don).

    The plotting is excellent. The story is propulsive. This is the kind of book that needs to be taken on a long plane trip, because it really passes the time. (I had to stop reading it at bedtime, because it burned away my Z-Quill haze).

    The writing, especially the dialogue – which has become part of American pop culture – is excellent. And worth sharing.

    For instance, the Godfather has some Godfatherly advice on the value of friends:

    There is also some excellent advice on the personal touch:

    Coppola’s films resonate because they play on the hoary old tropes of the American Dream. The Corleone family is the archetypical immigrant clan that comes to the United States and makes good. The sly subversion, of course, is that they make good by controlling the unions and bookmaking.

    In the film, it’s easy to get behind the Corleone family as the “good guys” while the other Mafia families are the “bad guys.” You cheer for Al Pacino because he’s Al Pacino (“Hoo-ah!”). At the same time, the film’s moral compass – Diane Keaton’s Kay Adams – is given the role of wet blanket, nagging and prying and generally taking time away from the kinetic scenes of gangland mayhem.

    There are elements of that theme in Puzo’s novel, but I found the main thread here to be much darker, more brooding, and far less certain that all these people we’ve followed are worthy of the attention. Puzo opens

    with a quote from Balzac: “Behind every great fortune there is a crime." Then he sets out to give you Exhibit A. He certainly baits you into siding with his protagonists early in the novel. By the end, however, he makes clear that the Corleones are not heroes, but criminals, and that there is a price they’ll have to pay for everything that they’ve done.

  • Hasham Rasool
    Aug 02, 2015

    It was a very good book. Alhamdulillah. I can't wait to get The Family Corleone and The Sicilian books.

    My favourite characters are Vito Corleone/Godfather and Michael Corleone.

    The Godfather and part 2 of The Godfather movies were awesome.

    The Godfather part 3 was pointless! The only part I actually enjoy watched The Godfather part 3 was 15 minutes before at the end of the film.