It’s been a while now since I’ve read a book that has stayed with me for days. I finally read The Godfather for the first time, and … wow. I loved the first two movies (can barely remember the third–I only watched it once), and I wanted to see if it’s one of those rare times when the film version of a story surpasses the book. No, it doesn’t. But it is one of those even rarer times when the movie changes the book just enough to make it great in its own right without taking anything away from the book. On balance, I think the storytelling in the movie is much more sophisticated, but the book gives a far better insight on the characters.
I wouldn’t consider the book to have the greatest storytelling I’ve ever read. In some parts, the exposition is awkward, and maybe I’ve been spoiled by having read some fabulously written romances recently, but at some points in the novel, I wished Puzo would tell less and just show, show, show, because there’s so much opportunity for showing that there rarely seems a real need to tell. But there are also times when he gets the balance right and produces something exquisite. The scene where the undertaker is called in to repay his favour to the Don is possibly one of the most haunting, most shocking scenes I’ve ever read (and I already knew what would happen). And the way we see Michael’s tragedy unfolding is so powerfully done as to make it impossible for me not to want him to be victorious even when it means he has to do some truly terrible things. (Needless to say, this is not a romance.)
I’ve been mulling over this book for days now. I just finished reading Midsummer Moon by Laura Kinsale, one of my favourite authors, and yet when I have time to think and wonder, I keep coming back to the Corleones. I couldn’t recommend The Godfather enough except to say that it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read.
Note: This post was originally published on June 27, 2008.