“Friendship is everything. Friendship is more than talent. It is more than the government. It is almost the equal of family.”
“I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
“Revenge is a dish that tastes best when served cold.”
-Mario Puzo, The Godfather
The year 1969 was an eventful one: the inaguration of Richard Nixon, the Apollo 11 mission, and, more globally, the Vietnam War. However, it was in this year that Italian-American author Mario Puzo penned what would become the basis of one of the greatest films in cinematic history: The Godfather. Seamlessly integrating a story of betrayal and redemption and an account of the Mafia underworld, Puzo’s magnum opus employs unpretentious rhetoric and powerful messages that make for an unforgettable reading experience. One can literally move along with the story as it progresses from scene to scene, further enhancing the reading experience.
The Godfather‘s plot is unique, for there are two major plot twists, one towards the beginning and one towards the end of the book. Attempting to summarize the plot without including the plot twists will be, if anything, next to impossible because the plot twists practically set the stage for the majority of the book. So, I will describe both the plot twists in this review, but will remain as committed as possible to my original principle by not spoiling the ending (you’re welcome :)).
The story centers around the Corleone crime family, consisting of the impulsive Sonny, the low-key Michael, the steadfast Connie, and the dim-witted Fredo. The family is headed by Vito Corleone, a family-oriented, kindhearted Sicilian immigrant (his title, “The Godfather”, is derived from his intimacy towards friends and family alike). But, he is often ruthless and utilizes various means to get what he wants. As don of the Corleone family, Vito oversees gambling, bootlegging, and corruption. A few days just after Connie’s wedding, though, drug trafficker Virgil Sollozzo (“The Turk”), accosts Vito to seek his business in narcotics. Vito declines the business offer; however, Sonny, who happens to be with his father during the interlocution, spontaneously blurts out that he is interested in the offer. Vito privately chides Sonny for his outburst. Meanwhile, Sollozzo realizes that he can get the Corleones’ business if he eliminates Vito and re-negotiates the offer with Sonny. With Vito’s bodyguard out sick, and slow-witted Fredo as the backup, Sollozzo’s men open fire on him when he’s at the market. Fortunately, Vito survives, and Michael, who was never affiliated with the family business, learns about what happened and swears revenge. From thence, a full-fledged vendetta ensues in the Mafia underworld, and a stunning turn of events occur that are to change Michael’s life — and the Mafia underworld in general — forever.
The Godfather is not just a tale of the Mafia underworld: it teaches us many lessons in life. One example is Vito Corleone; his very personality is a metaphor for the ideal person: kindhearted, family-oriented, and willing to accomplish one’s tasks. Another example, which I believe is the most apparent one, is Sonny’s personality. His spontaneous outburst and subsequent events hereat symbolizes exactly how one shouldn’t be. Videlicit, one should be attentive, self-aware, and prudent, NOT rash and careless. In short, The Godfather, while serving as a testimony to the evils of the Mafia underworld, also bears witness to human nature itself.
I would recommend this book to anybody, for Mario Puzo’s magnum opus can find a home within anybody.