By Sam Coles:
A bit of a different post this time around, if you follow me on Twitter you would know I’m a bit of a book worm. So I’m going to give my overall thoughts of my new favourite book that I read over the summer and that book is The Godfather. Most people remember The Godfather for the film trilogy which started all way the back in 1972 which was directed by Francis Ford Coppola. However it was based on a book written by Mario Puzo which was first published in 1969, and I have to say the book is better as we get more of an insight into certain characters, coupled with some spin chilling moments.
The Godfather follows the exploits of the Corleone Family; they are a mafia family based in New York under the guise of an “olive oil company”. Don Vito Corleone is a respected man throughout the criminal underworld, he is a man who is known for helping people and not a man for violence, not to say he doesn’t solve issues with physical violence but that is generally last minute. The book chronicles the family throughout the years from Vito’s daughter’s wedding all the way up, to when the torch is passed to his youngest son Michael.
What I like about the book compared to the film, is that it goes into more detail about characters that were side characters in the film, and we get more of a back story of Johnny Fontane where Puzo goes into his downfall as a singer which is merely teased in the film. Johnny Fontane’s story is interesting because to begin with he is presented as a broken man, with a singing career going down the tubes with a wife that mocks him constantly until he snaps and beats her. It’s not until he visits the Don at the wedding where he begs for help, which leads him to picking himself back up and getting on with his life as a film producer.
This added detail adds an extra layer of the overall story, but it can drag sometimes as it can add padding to the book as he goes into back stories where it is not needed. An example of this is Michael’s bodyguard Neri, this goes into his backstory when he has only one major input of the narrative by assassinating one of the Dons, but besides that he has no real input to justify that backstory.
The extra back story that was good and was necessary was Luca Brasi, this man had maybe a few scenes in the film but in the book he is built up to be this almost supernatural entity as he is cold and shows little human emotion. His back story is told to Michael when he flees to Sicily as he has to go into hiding, and is taken under the wing of Don Thomasino. He is told by a maid on the Don’s estate, where she use to be a midwife in New York, she tells Michael about how she was called out by Luca as he had impregnated an Irish woman. He pays her a high price to deliver the baby, not only that he wants her to “dispose” of the child, this leads to a chilling moment of where he throws the child into a furnace. It was a horrifying moment, and actually gave me nightmares that night of how someone could do that without flinching and just carry on as if it were normal.
The character arc of Michael Corleone is fantastic, as we see him go from an innocent young man who has little to do with his father’s organisation to hardened gangster with a cold demeanour. It’s great character development because when he flees to Italy, he realises that he can’t rely on the law to help all the time, as the mafia act as an unestablished enforcer for the downtrodden.
Puzo has an unflinching approach when it comes to detail especially when it comes to violence, it’s amazing and yet disturbing how he can describe someone being gunned down in different ways and I found it rather of putting with the crippling detail.
Overall The Godfather is an excellent read, it is a fast paced, engaging and brutal tale that will have you hooked from start to finish, there are moments of unnecessary padding but these are far and few. I highly recommend reading this book.