Sunday, April 18, 2010

57. The Godfather by Mario Puzo

I don't really remember why I chose to read The Godfather. I saw the movie once in high school; a few of my friends who took the film class were assigned to see a showing of the movie adaptation at the Main Art in Royal Oak and I tagged along. I vividly remembered the scene with the horse head, but other than that I just remembered it being really long. But for some reason, I thought of The Godfather when I was trying to find a book in the movie adaptation category and I suddenly felt really excited to read it. (And it didn't hurt that the edition for Kindle on PC only cost $6.39.)

I couldn't find a succinct plot summary anywhere, so I thought about attempting to write one myself... but come on. You know the basics, right? (If not, do a quick Google search and you'll find over 3 million results to sift through. Go ahead, I'll wait.)

I was not expecting to like The Godfather as much as I did. It is a definite page-turner, or whatever the equivalent is when you're reading on-screen, and each time I had to stop reading I was anxious to get back to it. The book opens with the wedding of Don Corleone's daughter Connie, just as the movie version opens, and it's a very effective way to immerse readers into this world. I found it easy to keep track of who the characters were and what was happening, which I was a little surprised by. After all, there is a lot going on. But Puzo doesn't overwhelm you with information, and I found myself hungry for more background and more information. I was completely engrossed in this new setting and then the story moved into the war between the five families, and it became very suspenseful. That was actually my favorite part of the book, which is unusual for me -- I've mentioned time and time again in these reviews how I get lost in action sequences. So I was pretty impressed while reading that I was so hooked during this part. 

The filmmakers had to cut out a lot when putting together the movie, and I think they made smart choices. I re-watched the movie after finishing the book, and it seemed like they chose to include all of the parts of the book that I liked the best. But there's no comparison here for me -- I definitely like reading the book better than watching the movie. I don't think the movie envelopes you in this world as effectively as the book does. For example, Michael's trip to Italy. In the book, Michael spends a lot of time with one of men who he's staying with and learns from his stories about how his father's world works. He comes back to New York with this greater understanding of his father and is comfortable joining the family business. In the movie, Michael's trip is kind of pointless. I think they tried to make the murder of his wife Michael's motivation for working with his father, but I'm not buying it. 

Also, I prefer the pacing in the book. This may be due in part to the fact that I didn't grow up loving the movie. I do know people my age who have seen the movie a million times and are totally devoted to it. I think watching it for the first time as an adult, you'll probably find the pacing of the movie to be extremely slow. That's one of the things that Colin mentions in his review of the movie, and I agree with. Although, he really didn't enjoy the wedding scene and thought it was overly long. After reading the book and re-watching the movie, I told him how much longer that scene could have been! But honestly, you don't even think about that when you're reading. For me, the time reading really flew by and I was sad when I finished the book. It's the kind of book that I wish I could read for the first time again. 

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