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The Godfather by Mario Puzo

The Godfather (original 1969; edition 2005)

by Mario Puzo

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7,788132433 (4.16)217
Title:The Godfather
Authors:Mario Puzo
Info:NAL Trade (2005), Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:trade, fiction, mafia

Work details

The Godfather by Mario Puzo (1969)

  1. 10
    The Sicilian by Mario Puzo (longway)
  2. 10
    Gem of the prairie : an informal history of the Chicago underworld by Herbert Asbury (ashleylauren)
  3. 00
    Leopard in the Sun by Laura Restrepo (joririchardson)
    joririchardson: Colombian literature that could be described as "The Godfather" re-written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
  4. 00
    Stiletto by Harold Robbins (ashleylauren)
  5. 01
    The Pack by C. W. Schultz (GeekyRandy)
    GeekyRandy: No real relevance. Both are about gangsters and comes from a neutral POV. "The Pack" is also obviously influenced by "The Godfather". I love both books, perhaps you will too.

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There is no doubt in my mind that Mario Puzo is a storyteller. The world he has created is absorbing and once you are in, you won't want to come out not even for meals until you flip that last page.

If you're a fan of the movie, you will greatly enjoy this book. If you haven't seen the movie, you will still enjoy this book.

The world of the Corleones is dark and gritty. I really felt for Michael and how hard he tried to create a life away from his father's world but circumstances force him to come face to face with his unavoidable reality. As Don Vito says, a man has only one destiny. ( )
  lapiccolina | Jun 23, 2017 |
The Godfather movie is absolutely fantastic. It's a classic, and it's one of those stories where one instantly gets sucked in despite themselves, into a world many couldn't imagine but for some reason want to attend regardless of the senseless violence and extreme business principles. I saw it before I read the book, something I detest doing, and was petrified to embark on the literary side of the story with the idea that no way would it live up to the movie (I know, what the heck was I thinking?). I did, however, plunge in, and it was absolutely stupendous. Puzo does magic here and keeps readers on the edge as they spiral into the Corleone family's world, in the heart of New York Italian Mafia. I want to read this book again just thinking about it. Don't let the tremendous level of hype discourage you; it's well deserved. ( )
  mlmarks98 | May 13, 2017 |
The storied Mario Puzo's magnum opus, The Godfather, apprises the tale of a sadistic, violent, and murderous fictional clan of the Sicilian Nativity, named Corleone. The New York-based crime family, originally guided by its patriarch Vito "Don" Corleone, and then later by the Don's heir, his formerly reclusive son Michael—recruited to head the family after his older brother Sonny, who had been first heir to the Corleone "Throne of Criminal Power", succumbed to a savage exceution—battle for control and continued power of the maniacal syndicate underworld, amidst other "close-knit" crime outfits...

(The above plot outline had been part of my original written review of The Godfather - way back in 1988 - after I'd completed the novel. Of course it, my original breakdown, had been at greater length in detail, but for the sake of the modern-day Goodreads platform, I've chosen to shorten it.)

With much respect to the legendary Francis Ford Coppola, and to his greatly-directed film adaptation of the bestselling novel under review here, Puzo's indigenous literary effort is far more ferociously grisly. And I am quite doubtful that the MPAA would have approved the Coppola-directed motion picture version had it featured such extensive detail to true Mafioso violence ... Especially not during the 1970s.

The Godfather is five-star superb. A ruthless, though highly respected icon of the literary arts. ( )
  CatEllington | May 5, 2017 |
Mario Puzo

The Godfather

Signet, Paperback [1978].

12mo. 479 pp.

First published by G. P. Putnam's Sons, 10 March 1969.
First Signet Printing, November 1978.
51st printing per number line, undated.


It is a strange claim, encountered now and then online, that Puzo’s novel is mediocre stuff elevated to masterpiece by Coppola and Co. This is, of course, nonsense. I am not saying this as an opinion. It is a scientific fact that can be verified by anybody at any time anywhere in the world. Virtually the complete movie The Godfather, as well as the flashbacks from The Godfather: Part II, are taken straight from this novel, including a great deal of the dialogue verbatim. The adaptation is a masterpiece of abridgment and modification, but it is not here the place to discuss it. Obviously, however, a great movie cannot be derived like that from a mediocre novel.

It’s not enough to do something with style. You have to do it with the right style. Puzo’s style is the perfect one for the type of book he wrote. It is bawdy and brutal, hardboiled and cynical, without any pretensions to be “literature” (whatever that means). A melodramatic or a mincing style would never work in a violent story like that and Puzo knows better than to use one. He is blunt yet stylish when he has to describe raw brutality in a matter-of-fact way, but on occasion he can also produce memorable, indeed haunting, imagery and subtle evocations of mood. For example:

The two big men were beating Moonan to jelly. They did so with frightening deliberation, as if they had all the time in the world. They did not throw punches in flurries but in timed, slow-motion sequences that carried the full weight of their massive bodies. Each blow landed with a splat of flesh splitting open.

The hedges, flower beds and grasses were as carefully manicured as a movie star’s nails.

The family of Genco Abbandando, wife and three daughters dressed in black, clustered like a flock of plump crows on the white tile floor of the hospital corridor.

Nothing was more calming, more conducive to reason, than the atmosphere of money.

But the style of a novel, whatever its felicity to evoke atmosphere or describe action, is no good at all if it can’t serve to create alive, complex and believable characters. Puzo shines here, too. He makes the Godfather and his family so much more than mere criminals. Somewhere in the middle of the book, you might be surprised how much you have begun to care for them. It’s easy to make virtuous and timid people “likable” on paper (which simply means that smug and stupid readers can identify with them). It’s a lot harder with disreputable, mentally unstable or downright psychopathological characters. But if Highsmith and Nabokov can make you empathise with a deadly impersonator and a paedophilic lecher, respectively, so can Puzo with members of the “mafia”.

Puzo doesn’t glamorise criminals. He humanises them. That’s a huge difference. The Godfather is a family story about a father and his three sons. The crime and the violence are incidental, hardly anything more than a colourful background. The so-called “all-out war of the Five Families” is barely mentioned. There is a good deal of violence, always graphically described, but it’s never gratuitous. The main characters are not heroes to root for relentlessly, but flawed human beings in tough situations to sympathise with. They are pleasantly ambiguous and contradictory, especially the two main figures, Vito and Michael Corleone.

The title character, often called simply the Don, is surely one of the most extraordinary creatures ever put on paper. Men have been sent to kill him ever since he was twelve, but he is still alive and well. He is a man of genius and a man of vision, not the usual puppet but a supreme puppeteer, the hand that pulls the strings and has become iconic on countless front covers. Instead of obeying the laws of society, he condemns them as unjust and creates his own. But it must be stressed that his own laws are not arbitrary. Far from it! They are based on strict moral principles.

The Godfather is not just a self-made millionaire: these are common. He is a self-made wielder of godlike power, and that is something rare indeed. He doesn’t waste time with threats, or energy with anger and grief. He reasons, he plans, he acts; swiftly and ruthlessly. He values friendship above everything else save the family. He sticks to a brutal and primitive system of mutual favours, but so much more effective, and often more just, than the court of law in “civilised” societies that it’s hard not feel certain admiration for it. And yet, though he is almost god, he is not a very good father, he has some curiously old-fashioned, not to say childish, ideas about sex and marriage, and occasionally he has to pay a heavy price for his lack of foresight.

But the Godfather is not the only reason for the existence of this book. Perhaps he is not even the major reason. The gist of the novel is Michael’s transformation from a college boy and a war hero (neither of his brothers would even dream of going to college or fighting for his country) to a new Don capable of things the old one never would have considered, much less done. The son takes his father’s art and squares it. He makes a masterpiece of the old man’s precept that you should always let friends underestimate your virtues and enemies overestimate your faults.

The fascinating thing about Michael is that he is just as much, if not indeed more so, a victim of his Sicilian genes as he is of the circumstances. He was quite ready, in the beginning, to go back to college, finish it, marry his (oh, what a scandal!) non-Italian girlfriend and live happily ever after as a law-abiding American. If the family crisis that turned him from an outsider into a member of the inner circle had happened a little later, the chances are that he would not have been involved in it. Or wouldn’t he? Perhaps the Godfather was nearer the truth when he used to say that each man has only one destiny.

All this is mesmerising to watch in the movie. But it’s even more compelling to read in the novel, courtesy of Mario Puzo’s brisk storytelling and incisive characterisation.

Of course it’s a great disadvantage to read this book if you know the movie quite well. The story is just as much the same as the characters are different. So here is a piece of free advice from a veteran: try to forget the movie while reading the book. In case you fail, as you probably will, here is some more advice.

In regard to the characters, the most awkward thing to get used to in the book is how much they talk. They have a passion to explain themselves. It is occasionally excessive. In the first chapter alone, Don Corleone talks twice more than his screen version in the complete film. On the whole, the book and the movie have different sets of characters. The outlines are the same, but the people on paper are vastly more complex, if perhaps less believable, than their simplified versions on the screen.

The Don and Michael, for example, are nothing like their cool and collected selves from the film who hardly ever raise their voice. Both are more volatile and more impulsive, even reckless. They talk more, they smile more, and they laugh more. Nor is Sonny, hardly a minor character, quite the dumb stud from the screen. He has his violent temper all right, but he also has brains and experience of which Coppola and Puzo robbed him in the script. Tom Hagen is a minor character on the screen and Johnny Fontaine is no character at all, but both are central to the book. Both are invested with flesh and blood, background and future. Sollozzo the Turk, another very minor character, is a lot more sinister here than the somewhat cartoonish version played by Al Lettieri. Kay Adams is a much stronger character than her feckless screen persona.

The greatest advantage of the book, as always, is the lots of background you simply can’t get on the screen – except in TV series which all too easily degenerate into soap operas. Puzo meticulously describes the Corleone empire, how it is built of the Don, a Consigliere, two caporegimes, and a number of “buffers”, “button men” and “muscles”; how far it extends into gambling, liquor, olive oil, construction, Hollywood and narcotics; how it works through bribes, blackmail and violence; and how it was forged in the dark ages of the Prohibition and the Great Depression. Puzo shows all this in a starkly realistic way, for instance in episodes omitted from the movie like the assassination of Fabrizio or the beating up of the two punks who had assaulted Bonasera’s daughter, or in vastly more detailed versions of minor parts of the film (e.g. Jack Woltz and the infamous horse head, the murder of Luca Brasi and many others).

No book is perfect and The Godfather is no exception. It has its faults, minor though they are on the whole. Puzo’s prose suffers from slight repetitiousness, physical appearance being the usual victim (there one or two “Cupid faces” too many), and occasional clumsiness in both narrative and dialogue. But neither is worth making a fuss about. Speaking of structure, the good deal of space dedicated to Johnny Fontaine (the whole Book II, chapter 26) and Lucy Mancini (the last chapter of Book V) is a bit hard to understand. Johnny is a fine opportunity to show the extremes to which the Godfather would go to for his godson, but there is little point in expanding his character further. As for Miss Mancini, she is the notorious lady “too big down there”. Mighty misfortune, no doubt, but I don’t quite see its relevance to the main story. The movie improved on the novel by cutting out these characters more or less completely.

Whatever your relationship with the movie, and never mind the faults just mentioned, try this book. Once you start reading, it’s an offer you can’t refuse. ( )
  Waldstein | Mar 12, 2017 |
I seen and absolutely love this movie. When I saw this on the 1001 book list, I was super stoked to finally read it. Needless to say, I was sort of disappointed. Yes, the majority of it was in the movie however there were chapters in the book that I didn't understand why they had to be in there.

For the rest of the review, visit my blog at: http://angelofmine1974.livejournal.com/121683.html ( )
  booklover3258 | Feb 14, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (20 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Puzo, Marioprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bart, PeterAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bennett, HarryCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fujita, S. NeilCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gardner, GroverNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thompson, Robert J.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wijk, Johan vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Behind every great fortune there is a crime. - Balzac
For Anthony Cleri
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Amerigo Bonasera sat in New York Criminal Court No. 3 and waited for justice; vengeance on the men who had so cruelly hurt his daughter, who had tried to dishonor her.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0451205766, Paperback)

The story of Don Vito Corleone, the head of a New York Mafia family, inspired some of the most successful movies ever. It is in Mario Puzo's The Godfather that Corleone first appears. As Corleone's desperate struggle to control the Mafia underworld unfolds, so does the story of his family. The novel is full of exquisitely detailed characters who, despite leading unconventional lifestyles within a notorious crime family, experience the triumphs and failures of the human condition. Filled with the requisite valor, love, and rancor of a great epic, The Godfather is the definitive gangster novel.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:05 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

A searing novel of the Mafia underworld, The godfather introduced readers to the first family of American crime fiction, the Corleones, and the powerful legacy of tradition, blood, and honor that was passed on from father to son. With its themes of the seduction of power, the pitfalls of greed, and family allegiance, it resonated with millions of readers across the world-and became the definitive novel of the virile, violent subculture that remains steeped in intrigue, in controversy, and in our collective consciousness.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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