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Giovanni's Room [Paperback]

James Baldwin
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 13 2000
Set in the 1950s Paris of American expatriates, liaisons, and violence, a young man finds himself caught between desire and conventional morality. With a sharp, probing imagination, James Baldwin's now-classic narrative delves into the mystery of loving and creates a moving, highly controversial story of death and passion that reveals the unspoken complexities of the human heart.

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Review

"If Van Gogh was our 19th-century artist-saint, James Baldwin is our 20th-century one."
--Michael Ondaatje

"A young American involved with both a woman and a man...Baldwin writes of these matters with unusual candor and yet with such dignity and intensity."
--The New York Times

"Absorbing...[with] immediate emotional impact."
--The Washington Post

"Mr. Baldwin has taken a very special theme and treated it with great artistry and restraint."
--Saturday Review

"Exciting...a book that belongs in the top rank of fiction."
--The Atlantic

"Violent, excruciating beauty."
--San Francisco Chronicle

From the Back Cover

"If Van Gogh was our 19th-century artist-saint, James Baldwin is our 20th-century one."
--Michael Ondaatje

"A young American involved with both a woman and a man...Baldwin writes of these matters with unusual candor and yet with such dignity and intensity."
--The New York Times

"Absorbing...[with] immediate emotional impact."
--The Washington Post

"Mr. Baldwin has taken a very special theme and treated it with great artistry and restraint."
--Saturday Review

"Exciting...a book that belongs in the top rank of fiction."
--The Atlantic

"Violent, excruciating beauty."
--San Francisco Chronicle

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning March 14 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Raw, honest, and brutal - this unrelenting study of human nature and and society's devastating impact on how people relate to each other on the most intimate levels is both beautiful and heartbreaking.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Contemporary subject matter July 12 2004
Format:Paperback
James Baldwin is masterful in conveying underlying motives. In his book, Giovanni's Room, he deals very tactfully with the moral pitfalls of sexual relationships. The hero, David, is torn between feelings of homosexuality and heterosexual relationships. Far from being the politically correct propoganda most likely to be published today, Baldwin shines the light of his craft on this subject with startling honesty. He shows great insight into the psyche underpinning moral choices. The character development for the main characters is good but could be better for the others. Yet for such a relatively short novel he does a good job. If you want to read a novel that seems to honestly deal with the realities of this subject, this is the one. He shies away from being hyper-critical in a moral sense, yet doesn't attempt to soften the harsh realities of living this lifestyle. Overall, an excellent read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Simply emotional June 3 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This has undoubtedly become my favorite book. Never have I had the need to reread a book till I was brought to this book. I could write comments about this book greater in length than the book itself, so I won't say more. It's a book you feel. Like the embrace given to a grieving friend,indescribable.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, Emotional, a must read!! Feb. 28 2004
Format:Paperback
It was just so beautiful. Incredaibly moving and emotional. Like Romeo and Juliet, right from the start you are told it's a tragdey, but that didn't stop me from going through the book hoping that it wouldn't be.
When I reached the end, I just sat there motionless. That was how deep the impression was.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Where have you been all my life? Feb. 6 2004
Format:Paperback
One reviewer stated that it was a shame more young readers were not reading Baldwin. It has taken me almost 35 years to discover him. One of the best writers of the 20th Century.
The subject matter (as you can see in other reviews) is a bit controversial for the time. However, Baldwins lyrical prose is certainly an enjoyment to behold.
I also read Notes of a Native Son at the same time as this book and its a great companion piece. Baldwin was an Expatriate living in Paris during the 50's and Notes give you further insight into Giovanni's Room.
A must read novel...A must read AGAIN novel!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A true masterpiece Feb. 4 2004
By gac1003
Format:Paperback
David is an American living in 1950's Paris. He has a finacée Hella, who recently left for Spain to make sure that she is ready to marry him. While she's away, David meets Giovanni, a young Italian bartender. They strike up a friendship, and for financial reasons, he moves into Giovanni's tiny room. But, the friendship grows into something more, and David must decide which life he wants to lead.
Throughout the novel, David is conflicted with his feelings of love, loathing and guilt for Giovanni. He loves Hella, too, but desparately wants to find out if her love is what he truly desires, almost willing her to save him. Author James Baldwin uses a very flowing style to permeate his novel with these emotions, allowing the reader to both sympathize and distrust Giovanni and David. One is strong and sure of himself; the other is fighting a battle in his head over what he feels.
"Giovanni's Room" is one of the great novel dealing with someone coming to terms with his or her own sexuality and all the emotions associated with it. A truly fine novel.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece about love and self-acceptance Feb. 1 2004
By gac1003
Format:Paperback
David is an American living in 1950's Paris, trying to flee from bad memories of home with his father. He has a finacée Hella, who has just left for Spain to make sure that she is ready to wed David. While she's away, David allows his urges to take him to one a gay bar, where he meets Giovanni, a young, Italian bartender. They strike up a friendship, and for financial reasons, David moves into Giovanni's tiny room.
Throughout the novel, David is conflicted with his feelings of love, loathing and guilt for Giovanni and for his own homosexuality. He loves Hella, too, but desparately wants to find out if her love is what he truly desires, almost willing her to save him. Author James Baldwin uses a very flowing style to permeate his novel with these emotions, allowing the reader to both sympathize and distrust Giovanni and David. One is strong and sure of himself; the other is fighting a battle in his head over what he feels. This creates one of the better novels dealing with someone coming to terms with his or her own sexuality.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Is this Desire? Oct. 28 2003
Format:Paperback
It is a shame that James Baldwin is so overlooked by the younger generations of readers. There is no parallel to the brilliance in his work and his writing style that is literary and thought provoking. "Giovanni's Room" packs a tremendous emotional punch with its narration of David, an American living in Paris during the 1950's. David's journey is the slow acceptance of his sexuality, as he carries on a relationship with the Italian bartender, Giovanni, while David's fiance, Hella, is abroad in Spain.
This novel has withstood decades of censorship on gay literature and we benefit from it. Baldwin takes on sexuality with grace and patience as we watch the narrator battle his own inner demons. Very early on, David tells us that he knows he is at fault for the suffering of those around him and that Giovanni will be will be executed on the guillotine the next morning. David then takes us back into his history with Giovanni and their life in the small room he rents. As the story unfolds, we watch as David creeps into the subculture of Paris, dependent on the money of his wealthy friends who loiter in the gay underground. Yet, there is a sense of contentment from the narrator with his new surroundings, though he does not openly admit to it. He sees his sexuality and his involvement in this "forbidden lifestyle" as a temporary one and then that fragile stability is shattered when Hella finally returns.
This book is a treasure that accurately documents one person's journey in self-discovery and questions the lines between love and desire. Thank you, James Baldwin, for what you've left behind for us.
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