The Godfather by Mario Puzo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The first two Godfathers are about as perfect as movies can be, and the book on which the movie's based is at least as good. Puzo's storytelling style is as conversational as barbershop chatter.
He tells his sprawling opera of gangland influence, intimidation and execution with deceptive ease, lacing his saga with psychological battles and poignant philosophical observations. In a style George R.R. Martin would come to imitate, he shifts perspectives among the main players, injecting empathy into to the plights of characters who at first appear to be cold, detached villains and turn out to be people who made hard decisions out of self-preservation and advancement, choosing to transform into monstrous versions of themselves in the name of protecting their interests.
At the core is Don Corleone, whose shadow looms over every corner of the kingdom he rules. He is a figure who inspires awe in all he befriends, controls and contends against, as well as the reader and Puzo himself, who based the character on a composite of mid-20th century mob kingpins.
Puzo holds up a mocking mirror to the mobsters' lifestyle of rationalized savagery, but also holds a deep respect for the customs, mannerisms and cultural fabric, and lulls his readers into a similar fascination. His novel and the movie it inspired are both shimmering and glorious triumphs.
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