The Godfather by Mario Puzo Review

“Never write in the first person,” is what three years of education threatened prospective students with. It is a message passed on through the current role, marking year four of this long and winding journey. For websites, this one and others, it is the lesson thrust at students, budding journalists and part-timers who wish to dabble their thoughts on this book or that film. Be personable without the person present. It is hard to do so when writing about The Godfather, the Mario Puzo novel that crashed through Hollywood and reshaped the narrative for ensemble features. But it is not the film that had such a profound and moving effect, one so great that the very barrier of first and third person is blurred, but the Puzo text itself.

What Puzo offers is accidental inspiration. He does not set out for these characters to be role models. They are sick beasts in need of help. Damned and cruel men coddling their woes with power and the responsibility of it. A strict structure marks Don Corleone as the man to impress and be indebted to. The fear and command of it are astonishing, Puzo presents that well despite having elongated breaks from The Godfather himself. He takes the time to flesh out the other characters, and as simple as that sounds, it is the tact provided by Puzo that makes them so entertaining. Not every man is cold in this mafioso family, but the bulk of them are heavy-hitting and have dark structures in their past. His effective prose is simple. He is there to disperse detail about a rich and engaging family with as simple a tone as possible.

It is that simplicity that lends itself to the stunning moments of offhand manipulation, assassination and brutality. The Godfather perches on simplicity not because it has nothing extra to offer, but because the blunt structure is the driving force of a narrative that spans ten years in the life of a once-feared family. Interjecting emotion is a rare opportunity for Puzo, who does so sparingly and effectively. Vito and Sonny Corleone are presented incredibly well, and it is Freddie who is left out of the equation. Even with his lack of presence, there is still a bright and shaken understanding of what he is doing off-page. Each character exists in their own little bubble, and Puzo makes a rather convincing, delicate case for flowing between these characters and not having them all pile in together.

Because of that, though, the flow of the story and the natural perception of it takes a dive. Puzo prevents this frequently, with an ultimately personal offering where even the slightest, briefest dialogue can have a profound and interesting effect. It is a book that should not leave the mind for some time, and as it lingers it is then that The Godfather takes hold. A slow-burning masterclass. Once the pieces of the puzzle are fitted together, it is hard to disagree with the actions the characters take, or at the very least, disagree with why they took them. Puzo does that well. He invites the reader into the dark hearts and cool-headed minds of the mafia and leaves no stone unturned as he crafts a novel that relies on an audiences’ perception of familial loyalty, doing what is right and putting up a blunt front for those disrespectful few. Seductive villains biding their time, Puzo crafts a knowable and intense world of backstabbers, but cuts a path through for those that live within it as sinless and soulful. It’s an odd blend, but it works well.

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