Giovanni’s Room

Title: Giovanni’s Room
Author: James Baldwin
Publication: Dial Press 1956
Rating: 5 stars

So…maybe it was my last post about reading Breathing Lessons in one day or maybe it was my roommate’s incredulous look when I said I’d do it, but I started and finished Giovanni’s Room last night. The whole 164pages, which really isn’t all that much, is awesome!

It’s rare to find a book that so perfectly combines a powerful, compelling story and beautiful prose. James Baldwin blew me away with this tale of a young American man in 1950s Paris struggling to find his place in the world. Though it might sound trite–a young man’s journey of self discovery–it is a unique story. It is safe to say that Giovanni’s Room was my introduction to “queer fiction,” as my roommate calls it.

Of course, I’ve read tons of books with homoerotic undertones and overtones (Nathaniel West and Hemingway, not to name names), but never a book explicitly about a relationship between two men. I say “relationship” and not “love affair” because the protagonist has a tragically impossible time fusing love with sex.

He has his first sexual encounter with a boy while still very young and then shortly after he is engaged to woman. His fiance takes a trip abroad and leaves him to his own devices in Paris, which eventually lead him to Giovanni. Due in part to poverty, he begins living in Giovanni’s Room. Their few months of time together is anything but blissful young love. Instead it is riddled with shame, anger, uncertainty, and even hatred. The protagonist cannot seem to figure out how to rectify the 1950s social constructions of manhood with homosexuality.

I don’t want to give the story away, so I will stop here. Just know that it is an incredible tale that is so brilliantly written that I wanted to open it right back up to page 1 after I finished. I’d say it’s on par with A Death in the Family and Gone with the Wind.

UPDATE*** Huffington Post just tweeted the 7 greatest gay couples in literature. I think that Giovanni’s Room should have made the list!

About Natalie Ramm

I read a lot, y'all.
This entry was posted in Books I read and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Giovanni’s Room

  1. Ellie Wheeler says:

    on par with GWTW? next.

    Like

  2. Pingback: A Hundred Books I want to read | Bright Lights, Big-ish City

  3. Pingback: The Blue Place | Bright Lights, Big-ish City

  4. Pingback: My book list: 100 strong | Bright Lights, Big-ish City

  5. Pingback: The Marriage Plot | Paperspines

  6. Pingback: The Picture of Dorian Gray | Paperspines

  7. Pingback: Top Ten Tuesday: Books that broke my heart a little | Paperspines

  8. Pingback: Brook Street #1: Thief | BooksAreTheNewBlack

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s