For my brother’s selection, in our informal reading group, he chose Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. I was pretty excited with his choice, as I’ve maybe seen the movie once when I was younger, but didn’t really remember what it was about, so it would be, for the most part, all new for me. Another reason why I was excited was I had just been thinking about grabbing a copy from the library to read when my brother mentioned it as his choice! I bought the movie when it came out on DVD several years ago, but haven’t cracked it open yet. Reading the book is the perfect motivation for me to finally watch my copy of the movie.
The Godfather was originally published in 1969 and was on the bestseller list for most of 1969, and of course, was made into the hit movie in 1972 directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
At the outset, The Godfather introduced me to the Corleones, a powerful mafia family in New York, one of the most powerful mafia families in the country. Puzo introduces us to each of the Corleones, starting with Don Vito Corleone, the Godfather. From his initial introduction in the book, I was rooting for Don Corleone. How can it be? Rooting for the head of a large mafia who’s responsible for potentially killing people and committing other crimes, to further their own goals, or to help those who come asking for it, in return for favors later on. The minute that Puzo introduced Don Corleone, I really wanted to root for him. Here’s the passage that did it for me, and it was very early on in the book:
Don Vito Corleone was a man to whom everybody came for help, and never were they disappointed. He made no empty promises, nor the craven excuse that his hands were tied by more powerful forces in the world than himself. It was not necessary that he be your friend, it was not even important that you had no means with which to repay him. Only one thing was required. That you, you yourself, proclaim your friendship. And then, no matter how poor or powerless the supplicant, Don Corleone would take that man’s troubles to his heart. And he would let nothing stand in the way to a solution of that man’s woe. His reward? Friendship, the respectful title of “Don,” and sometimes the more affectionate salutation of “Godfather.” And perhaps, to show respect only, never for profit, some humble gift — a gallon of homemade wine or a basket of peppered taralles specially baked to grace his Christmas table. It was understood, it was mere good manners, to proclaim that you were in his debt and that he had the right to call upon you at any time to redeem your debt by some small service.
Even though I knew Don Corleone was a big mafia boss, I couldn’t help but think of him as a grandfather like figure. Always listening, but critical when he needed to be, especially if you didn’t come to him first, like Amerigo did when he didn’t receive justice from the courts. He was diplomatic, but stern when he wanted to accomplish some sort of goal. He demonstrated that diplomacy toward the end of the book in order to bring his son back home.
I wasn’t a big fan of Sonny, especially as he started directing the war against the other families. He was vicious, didn’t show any of the shrewd diplomacy of his father, and was rash. I thought nothing more of him than a vicious hired gun who refused to see the overall larger picture.
I also wasn’t a big fan of Freddie’s as his seemed nothing more than a shallow coward. When he moved out to Vegas, he became more “Hollywood” like. Definitely a weak character as far as I was concerned, but I definitely saw the purpose of him going out to Vegas as the goals of the Corleone family appeared to be changing.
I could see from the get go that Michael was going to be a lot like his father. Just as diplomatic and cunning with a keen sense of where things needed to go in the long-term. It seemed to me, that from the very beginning, that Michael really didn’t want to have anything to do with the family business, but as events transpired, even before he decided to join the family business, I could tell that he would rise up to the occasion and lead the Corleone family in the future.
Overall, a fantastic read, and I’m so glad that my brother chose The Godfather for us to read. The next step on this journey is to watch the movie on DVD, and maybe, I’ll be able to do that this upcoming weekend. What did you think of The Godfather if you’ve read it. I’d love to hear if you thought the movie interpretation is true to the story. I very well may put together another post making a comparison!