Book Review: The Godfather — an Italian-American classic

24 May

I’ll be honest with you.

I have seen “The Godfather” movie more than a dozen times. As a young Sicilian-American, it was probably my birthright to see this excellent movie classic. But I had never read the book … (hanging my head in shame). It’s true … I had never read and finished the book until a couple days ago and let me know tell you, I don’t know why I waited this long.

The book “The Godfather” was written in 1969 by the late Italian-American author Mario Puzo. It centers around the fictitious Sicilian crime family, the Corleones headed by Don Vito Corleone. Don Vito has four children: Sonny, Michael, Fredo, and Connie. He also “adopts” an Irish-American named Tom Hagen, who eventually becomes his consigliere. Set in the 1940s, the book details the mob war between the Corleones and the other four families in New York. It also tells the back story of Don Vito Corleone’s childhood to his emigration to America, and his entrance and success in the Mafia world with the help of his friends like Peter Clemenza and Sal Tessio.

Though Don Vito Corleone is the patriarch, the book’s central character is Michael, the youngest son, who slowly moves his way up to become the head of the family. English-speaking readers are introduced to several Italian terms like caporegime (high-ranking member), consigliere (counselor), and omerta (law of silence).

The book was made into a movie with the same name in 1972, garnering an Oscar-winning performance by Marlon Brando. Francis Ford Coppola (who scripted the movie with Puzo) won two Oscars for best director and adapted screenplay with Puzo. The movie also won best picture that year. Part 2 and Part 3 of the “The Godfather” trilogy were made in 1974 and 1990, respectively. “The Godfather Part 2” also won Oscars for best supporting actor (Robert De Niro), best director (Coppola), and best adapted screenplay (Coppola and Puzo).

Coppola is a genius in storytelling in films just like Puzo is a genius in storytelling in prose. Puzo’s style of writing is so rich and detailed. He carries the readers in every scene through violence, romance, and drama. He paints a vividly, elaborate picture of the Corleone family and of the Sicilian mob, and he writes it with such conviction and passion, making the Corleones look powerful with good intentions. One minute the reader can be celebrating with the family singing the “Tarantella” and eating spaghetti and meatballs, and the next he or she could be exposed to the murders to top all murders.

Through Puzo’s prose, the reader is immersed into the true nature of the Italian culture. The culture is certainly not about the mob. It’s about family. It’s about faith. It’s about loyalty.

So in conclusion, if I could steal that famous notable line, I’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse: don’t wait, read this book! You won’t be sorry. It’s an oldie but a goodie and truly one of the best pieces of literature of all time.

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Posted by on May 24, 2012 in Book Reviews


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