Sunday, 6 April 2014

Book of the Week: The Godfather

"Lawyers can steal more money with a briefcase than a thousand men with guns and masks."

The Godfather by Mario Puzo is one of those books that's been sitting on my shelf for a long time, but I always skimmed past it when selecting my next read. I've always had a bit of a fascination with the mafia. Goodfellas is one of my favourite movies, and the Kray twins are, in my eyes, two of the most interesting figures ever to grace the pages of British history. So, with my slightly weird obsession with all things organised crime (not sure what wrong with me...), theory dictates that I should have loved The Godfather. Turns out that theory perfectly translates into reality as there, in plain sight, sat one of my favourite books, ignored and undiscovered right under my nose. I could kick myself for leaving it unread for so long, but lets not dwell, I've finally read it, and here's what I think.

The Godfather tells the tale of the Sicilian families, the original mafia, living and working in 1940s New York. Of the five families, the Corleones are the most powerful and when their Don, Vito Corleone is gunned down in the street, the family flirts with murder, blackmail and betrayal, and it's all they can do to prevent war from breaking out in the streets of NYC. Ultimately a tale of protection, loyalty and family values, the Corleones are forced to battle for survival in the clandestine society  that they have ruled for so long. 

The thing that struck me most about the book was how real and believable the relationships are. Unlike the film, in which everything seems a little fantastical, and violence is the real draw, the family ties and the sense of unparalleled love that the Corleones have for each other are positively palpable.  Perhaps it's a tad more extreme than reality (just a tad, mind), but hey, it's a book - it'd be boring if it wasn't a little amplified. The entire story is very much centred on kindness, loyalty, and the intimacy of family and friends - it just so happens that they have a slightly different, shall we say, less forgiving approach to discipline than we do!

And their generosity doesn't only extend to relations. Tom Hagen, my favourite character, was taken under the wing of Don Corleone at a young age, after he was rejected by the rest of society, and has since grown to be a part of the family, securing himself the coveted, albeit slightly dangerous role of consigliere, the right hand man to the Don. I think the reason I like him so much is because he isn't a part of the family. He has none of the hot headed unreasonability that often intermingles with family dynamics. In fact, it's his job to make sure that no rash decisions are acted upon, and the best course of action is always taken. A trained lawyer, he is always the voice of reason in the book, meaning that it isn't merely a story of impulse and revenge. Although all of the characters seem very real to me, it's Tom's level headedness and strategic thinking that, for me, makes the war between the families a truly believable one. 

Although not in any way as violent as the movies, I wouldn't call this a book for the faint of heart. But if, like me, you're a little enamoured with the celebrity of the glamourised criminal underworld, I would definitely recommend that you give this puppy a peruse. So go ahead. Buckle down, 'go to the mattresses' as they say, and don't come up again until you've finished this spectacular read. 

Have you read The Godfather? Have a bit of a gangster fetish like me? Let me know!


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  1. Sounds interesting! I don't have much interest for 'crime fiction' per se, (I would like to read something about the Krays though!) but this seems to really deal with other themes such as familial bonds etc, which I do find intriguing! Brilliant review - really concise and engaging!

    Nell at And Nell Writes

    1. I'm not really a big crime fiction fan either, but this is brilliant! Obviously it has those elements of crime, but it's really more about relationships. It's absolutely nothing like the films - based on those, I'd probably really not like it. Let me know if you read it - I'd love to get your opinion! xx