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Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin

Giovanni's Room (original 1956; edition 2013)

by James Baldwin (Author)

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3,265582,548 (4.12)299
Title:Giovanni's Room
Authors:James Baldwin (Author)
Info:Vintage Books (2013), Edition: 1, 176 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, unread, lgbt

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Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin (1956)


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English (55)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (58)
Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
I confess it has been a long while since I last read a true classic of literature. The quality of language and structure of Baldwin's short novel rings so true even today that it is shocking. The narrator has few redeeming qualities as he careens through his process of self-discovery inflicting catastrophic damage on those foolish enough to love him. Every aspect of gay life in the fifties still holds true today, and Baldwin applies his personal experience to good effect. It is impossible for me to imagine the impact this book would have had on an audience sixty years ago. Only his thoughts about women and gender roles generally feels dated.

Unfortunately, however good this book, it lands squarely in the genre of the era in which gay characters must end badly, and they all do. That cost him half a star. Nonetheless, the descriptions of certain moments, such as the narrator's first halting sexual experience as a teenager, were breathtaking. The moment of surrender to one's true nature, after a long and fervent struggle to resist, can be cathartic, even to read about.

The only item of note I took from the introduction as that the bare outline of the Giovanni's tale was inspired by a real incident during Baldwin's time in Paris. ( )
  dono421846 | Mar 13, 2019 |
One of the most quietly powerful books I have ever read.
  tntbeckyford | Feb 16, 2019 |
3.5 stars--may up later, I think this book may stick with me

I have heard so many raves about this book, and I think I built it way up in my mind. And there was nothing wrong with it--it is quite well done. But it didn't live up to my expectations. I also felt like it was snippets--or, rather, that there were significant snippets missing. Like David's whole first year in Paris--is that when and where he met Hella? How long and significant was their relationship when she went to Spain? How long had he and Jacques known each other? What exactly was their relationship? How long did David know Giovanni for?
Quick summary: David is an American "finding himself" in Paris after a somewhat difficult childhood (widowed father, angry aunt, father remarrying). He meets Hella and falls in love. She goes to Spain. While she is gone he meets Giovanni, a bartender at a bar his friend Jacques takes him to. He ends up moving in with Giovanni and they too have a relationship, which David doesn't intend to keep up when Hella comes back. When she comes back they get engaged, Giovanni is very upset, Hella and David move to the country because David wants to get away.
So many questions, this book would be great in a book club or class.

Did David make a mistake? Would he rather be with Giovanni? Is he marrying Hella just to have an easy average life, and he is not actually in love with her at all? Or is he the type of person that will never be satisfied with the person he is with? Is Giovanni himself running from his sad past with his wife? Is Giovanni still grieving and that is why he is struggling so much? Or does Giovanni feel he was severely punished for trying to conform to society's expectations? ( )
  Dreesie | Jan 14, 2019 |
I know I'm about 62 years late to the party but this is exquisite writing. ( )
  AaronJacobs | Oct 23, 2018 |
This book is so frustrating but well written. I had sympathy for David but also rage at how he treated everyone - Giovanni's monologue about him not being able to love is spot on. You can see the James influence in the Americans abroad in Europe aspect as well as Baldwin's love affair with Paris, too. Worth reading. ( )
  jeninmotion | Sep 24, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
added by gsc55 | editHearts on Fire, Delta (May 11, 2013)

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
James Baldwinprimary authorall editionscalculated
Prinsen, G.A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I am the man, I suffered, I was there. - Whitman
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I stand at the window of this great house in the south of France as night falls, the night which is leading me to the most terrible morning of my life.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385334583, Paperback)

Set in the 1950s Paris of American expatriates, liaisons, and violence, a young man finds himself caught between desire and conventional morality. With a sharp, probing imagination, James Baldwin's now-classic narrative delves into the mystery of loving and creates a moving, highly controversial story of death and passion that reveals the unspoken complexities of the human heart.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:34 -0400)

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"Set in the 1950s, Paris of American expatriates, liaisons, and violence, a young man finds himself caught between desire and conventional morality"--P. [4] of cover.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141186356, 0141032944

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