By Mario Puzo
“Italians have a little joke, that the world is so hard a man must have two fathers to look after him, and that’s why they have godfathers.” ― Mario Puzo, The Godfather
Being the most accurate depiction of the underground world of the mafia ever written, there is no doubt The Godfather is the classic by excellence.
Set between the 1940’s and 1950’s, this book tells us the story of the Corleone family, the most powerful and respected of the Five New York City Mafia Families. Don Vito Corleone, whose influence even reaches the government, is the head of the family and is the one known as “The Godfather”. He is not a Mafioso such as those we normally hear about, for what he learned while he lived in Sicily, is that the mafia should be the people who bring justice to those who’ve been wronged and won’t get help from the authorities. Through illegal methods, he helps those in need as if he were their second father. As he says: “Friendship is equal to family.”
During the story, as the Corleone Empire keeps expanding, Don Vito is confronted with a proposal that would change the course of the Family: to enter the narcotics business. Being such an honourable and conservative man, we wisely refused, but at the same time tore apart his descendants’ future.
The novel completely changed my perspective about the mafia. It still portrayed it as violent and brutal, however, I didn’t know how important honour was to them. At first, I didn’t understand why they didn’t give the same treatment to their Irish-American lawyer as to other members of the Family, but later on, I found out they cared about always keeping Italian values. What was shown about Italian tradition throughout the book greatly fascinated me. How Vito acted during his daughter’s wedding, how important Godfathers are seen among them, how family plays an important role, and also Vito’s wife’s participation impacted me. Mainly because all that Michael Corleone (Vito’s son) lived during his stay in Sicily is why it’s now on my list of places I want to visit.
The narrative also follows the stories of Tom Hagen, Clemenza, Sonny and Connie Corleone, Carlo Rizzi, Kay Adams, Lucy Mancini and Johnny Fontane, with whom we can explore more about what goes on in the underworld of the mafia and the lives of celebrities in both New York City and Las Vegas. The stories do have an impact as the book advances, however, they weren’t as important as Michael and Vito’s story.
So far, this has been one of my favourite books because of the story, themes, originality, and Puzo’s beautiful style of writing. I’m kind of sad the sequels weren’t written by the original author, but I’ll think about giving them a chance.
I give The Godfather by Mario Puzo 5/5 stars, and recommend it for people who are 17+ because of some strong themes it contains.