Giovanni's Room Mass Market Paperback – Import, 1 April 1988
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From the Publisher
"A young American involved with both a woman and a man... Baldwin writes of these matters with unusual candor and yet with such dignity and intensity." -- The New York Times
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- Publisher : Laurel; Reissue edition (1 April 1988)
- Language : English
- Mass Market Paperback : 224 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0440328810
- ISBN-13 : 978-0440328810
- Item Weight : 113 g
- Dimensions : 10.8 x 1.91 x 17.15 cm
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from India
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Giovanni's Room is a brilliant book. It has all the elements in it to be called a perfect piece of literary fiction - sublime language, complex and realistic characters,a heavy dose of tender emotions and the climactic tragedy.
This lyrical work is a tumultuous study of humans caught in the miasma of shame, lust, guilt and desire. The protagonist is trapped in what is society's conception of correctness. The city of Paris, the bar houses, the streets and 'Giovanni's room' mimic this congestion. It's breathtaking how the writer has juxtaposed the abstract and the physical.
Everything about this book is hauntingly mesmerising and tenderly moving. It is a remarkable gay novel, but it's not just a gay novel. It's about everyone and for everyone.
Please read this, I insist you.
What I didn't like was the not so subtle misogyny in the book which is definitely unsettling not so much because it is anti women which, well, it is, but more because it creates a sinister relationship between homosexuality and misogyny. It can be misleading and harmful in ways more than one. I can't say if the author intended that but the last thing one expects to find in gay literature is the usual streaks of homophobia laced with comfortable ignorance and insensitivity.
But I can't change my stand on how compelling this book is. It's easily one of the best books I have read, a 5 🌟 book if not for the not-so-slightly bugging thing about women and gays, so I give it 4 🌟
Here, have a look at this bewichingly beautiful paragraph -
"I remember that life in that room seemed to be occurring beneath the sea, time flowed past indifferently above us, hours and days had no meaning. In the beginning our life held a joy and amazement which was newborn every day. Beneath the joy, of course, was anguish and beneath the amazement was fear; but they did not work themselves to the beginning until our high beginning was aloes on our tongues. By then anguish and fear had become the surface on which we slipped and slid, losing balance, dignity, and pride."
Have I convinced you enough?
James Baldwin’s writing is at best confused. Characters aren’t developed properly and this leads to absolutely chaos in their behaviour.
While you do feel sorry for the plight Giovanni and David are in, you certainly don’t feel any emotional connect with either of them. This has more to do with Baldwin’s writing, than the characters themselves.
As a whole, Giovanni’s Room is a half-hearted attempt at a story that could have been made heart-breakingly beautiful. Unfortunately, it falls dismally short.
But I’m willing to give Baldwin the praise he deserves for tackling such a sensitive topic at a time when it was illegal to even talk about it.
Pick up this book if you’re looking to expand your reading horizons, but don’t let your expectations run wild.
For all that it is a book about two men in love in a time when it was still very much a struggle to even hint at being anything less than straight, it is also a story of two people who fell for each other, who are deeply flawed and who react in different ways to circumstances surrounding them. Giovanni looked at that love as it was, just love whereas David couldn’t even accept himself let alone that love, it’s a story of struggle and living with the choices they make. I will definitely be reading more of Baldwin’s books for sure.
Top reviews from other countries
Although I am straight, and have never been remotely interested in men...I have a sympathy for anyone going through any kind of emotional turmoil.
David, the narrator, has a sentience which is impossible to me, and every moment would be painful if I was that aware of my feelings...but it's Baldwin's psychological clarity which is the punch of the book. Its USP.
David finds himself, loses himself, and breaks the continuity with his old life and American destiny in a grubby little room belonging to the charismatic Giovanni. In France, homosexuality was permissible, unlike in the UK, but people's dalliances and relationships were mostly clandestine and hidden away from the respectable veneer of society. Young men, knowing their life could never be accepted in the mainstream, find themselves at the mercy of poorly paid jobs, with no future. And many rely on the patronage of wealthy men, who prey on them in the shadows of Paris.
That Baldwin was a black man, living in Paris, is notable. But despite the obvious struggles Baldwin must have faced in America and France with his ethnicity, there isn't a trace of that in the book. But there is an intensity to sexual politics. And the character of David's girlfriend, Hella, is drawn with sympathetic attention to her own struggles, both as a woman...and as someone who realises the person she loves, she didn't really know at all.
It's not a book I can say I enjoyed although I'm glad I read it.
None of the characters are happy and any happiness they find is short lived. They are unhappy about their own sexuality and this spills into all aspects of their life's. They cannot be happy because of who/what they are. You know that there will be no happy ending.
Giovanni's room poses the question, do we as humans follow convention and lead a life and follow a set of codes that is expected of us or should we throw caution to the wind and by so doing be true to our self. A story that it is impossible not to be affected by and issues as important today as when the novel was first published. Highly Recomended