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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 0385334583 978-0385334587
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 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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5.0 out of 5 stars No Matter Where You Go - There You Are Sept. 8 2003
Format:Paperback
My now-deceased cousin Charles was a gay painter who gave this book to me when I was 16. Back then I followed him around like his shadow, loving his stories of travel and lovers. I grew to travel and thought of how no matter where I went, I took me.
James Baldwin's Giovanni's room, seems to be a story of this realization, of not being able to escape yourself; despite being in the free-est position you'll probably ever be in again. Too bad San Francisco wasn't up and running for a man in his position, back then. Nowadays the pilgrimage to self identity is the same by plane, and having lived in both Paris and Frisco, Paris (for me) is definitely the place to face oneself.
James Baldwin's David seems to be fighting a demon that surfaced long before his sexuality came into question. Between the lines I'm seeing a portrayal of Mr. Baldwin's 1950's America as the P-envying society of self-hate that he has escaped. He arrives in America's parallel universe, Paris; a place where he is accepted without having to reinvent himself.
I lived in Paris for 4 years. I went there with my pre-conceived notions, and was introduced to theirs. Being an American woman in Europe, men see you as the unfulfilled dame who has not been allowed to blossom. They see you as the accepting and unsatisfied victim of a cocky, selfish, binging male culture. They feel obliged to help you recover. to show that quality not quantity is the answer. finesse not excess.
Baldwin's Giovanni's room is a book that makes me think, that the plague of identity issues, sexual, societal, etc., is a monster empowered by self-doubt, a parasite in which strength of character can only defeat. You are your own worst enemy.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning
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... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Ginevra M Saylor
4.0 out of 5 stars Contemporary subject matter
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. Read more
Published on July 12 2004 by James D Mcgee
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply emotional
This has undoubtedly become my favorite book. Never have I had the need to reread a book till I was brought to this book. Read more
Published on June 3 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, Emotional, a must read!!
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... Read more
Published on Feb. 28 2004 by Shirley Li
5.0 out of 5 stars Where have you been all my life?
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. Read more
Published on Feb. 6 2004 by Scott T.
5.0 out of 5 stars my favorite book of all time
i love givannis room so much, james baldwin writes a story that is short and compact, but oh so good. Read more
Published on July 27 2003 by sterling
1.0 out of 5 stars Another view
I had to read this book for class, otherwise I would have thrown it in the trash. People pay money for this? Read more
Published on March 19 2003 by Alex Newberry
2.0 out of 5 stars And the point was....?
James Baldwin is an overrated writer in my opinion. I've read three of his "best" works and am not just basing this sentiment on one novel. Read more
Published on July 27 2002 by Martha
5.0 out of 5 stars Mr. Baldwin goes to France
It's possible that James Baldwin's main strength as a writer is his ability to be subtly insightful. He gets his ideas across without overpowering the reader with them. Read more
Published on July 11 2002 by arye orona
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