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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful prose. A true classic!
"Giovanni's Room" by James Baldwin is a beautiful novel about the struggling sexuality of a young American expatriate, David.
David is living in Paris, and while there, he meets Hella. David is quite determined to live a "normal" life, with wife, kids and all. But while Hella is away in Spain ("to consider David's proposal") David has an affair with the handsome...
Published on June 18 2001 by Hilde Bygdevoll

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars "Just Above My Head" is FAR, FAR BETTER!!!
While "Giovanni's Room" is a fine novel, Baldwin does a much better job with the themes presented here (identity, sexuality, place, etc.) in his later novel, "Just Above My Head." My personal opinion is that "Giovanni's Room" has received such positive praise and hype in the gay (white) community becasue the characters are white...
Published on Aug. 22 1999


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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful prose. A true classic!, June 18 2001
By 
Hilde Bygdevoll (Stavanger, Norway) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Giovanni's Room (Hardcover)
"Giovanni's Room" by James Baldwin is a beautiful novel about the struggling sexuality of a young American expatriate, David.
David is living in Paris, and while there, he meets Hella. David is quite determined to live a "normal" life, with wife, kids and all. But while Hella is away in Spain ("to consider David's proposal") David has an affair with the handsome Italian bartender, Giovanni.
Although the time setting of this novel is in the 1950's, "Giovanni's Room" is a timeless novel, and anyone regardless of time-period, can easily identify with the different characters.
Once I started reading this book, I found it almost impossible to put it down. Actually, I finished it in one long day...
In the 1950'ies it wasn't easy to be neither gay nor black. The author James Baldwin was both. I think he was immensely brave to write "Giovanni's room", especially since he did so, in a time when it was hard to be either one, black or gay. Some of the other reviewers said that "if you are not paying a lot of attention you probably wouldn't even know that the book is about homosexuality" - not to be disrespectful, although Baldwin's writing technique in this book is impressive, I have a hard time understanding how one could possibly avoid picking up that the book is about homosexuality...
Anyway, I think that "Giovanni's Room" is one of James Baldwin's best works, and I highly recommend the book!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful prose, haunting story, one of the true classics, June 3 2001
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"ivan1138" (Tallahassee,FL USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Giovanni's Room (Hardcover)
Baldwin opens this, his second novel, with this quote from Whitman: "I am the man, I suffered, I was there." Indeed, Baldwin was the man and he did suffer. Baldwin was a double threat, both black and gay, and brave enough to write about what it was to be both, in a time when it wasn't fashionable to be either. A novelist, playwright, short story writer, and essayist, Baldwin wrote uncompromisingly of an America largely unrepresented in our literature. "Giovanni's Room," is simply one of the most beautifully written works of fiction produced in the last century. It deals with a young man's conflicts over his homosexuality, his feelings of isolation, despair and grudging acceptance. That it reveals emotions and sentiments which have subsquently become all to familiar in our literature and yet remains as potent as when it was published forty-five years ago, is a tribute to the genius of Baldwin. Five stars are not be enough for this cherished work. God bless you Jimmy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Explores universal moral conflicts, June 12 2000
By A Customer
Foremost, Giovanni's Room is beautifully written. Baldwin writes incredibly well.
It would be a mistake to see this book as singularly about homosexuality (and to either read it, or not, because of that alone). Baldwin explores universal problems using a specific character and context.
What's most impressive is the way he describes, and then captures the consequences, of the moral dilemma. Though the context is homosexuality, I think similar conflict happens all too often, especially in relationships. You think you should be one thing or feel one way, and everything in your social, religious, intellectual voice tells you're right - except how you deep down feel. Baldwin has this one line about how hard it is to say "yes" to life. In that passage, I think he refers to how hard it is to reject your conventional self and embrace your deep down feelings. And this conflict could be about anything.
Then, too, Baldwin shows how, the stronger you love someone who provokes such internal conflict, the stronger your own self-hatred and hatred for that person. How terrible to most want to hurt the person you most love.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Important Novel, May 14 2000
By 
JCB (I Love Seattle!) - See all my reviews
The first word that comes to mind when I think about Giovanni's Room is "poetic." Each word is thoughtfully placed in each sentence, creating a narrative that reflects not only the profound intellectualism of Baldwin, but also his sensitivity and depth as a human being. GIOVANNI's ROOM has established itself as an important queer novel. First published over 40 years ago, it captures the life of an expatriate, David, in Paris, and reveals his transformation. His transformation is multilayered, a complex and dynaic affair, yet the most obvious, and arguably, important one, is his sexual metamorphosis--brought about by Giovanni. The relevance of this novel is that most of us can empathize with David's struggle. How could we not? Balwin's words are rich and compelling. It lifted me from my reality into David's, and by the end of the novel (the last two sentences, I've read 1000 times), I felt like I knew exactly what David had gone through, because I was there with him, and because I'd been there in my own life as well.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Tragic Character, but Terrific Prose, Touching Psychology, Jan. 9 2000
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In this book, a white American, David, goes to Paris, meets the Italian Giovanni in a gay bar, leaves his girlfriend Hella....Will today's readers feel that David's self-hatred of his basically-gay identity (his "internalized homophobia") is dated now--much like some say the 1968 play THE BOYS IN THE BAND is, for example? We're past such agonizing? But aha, major personal growth against the norms is always turbulent. Anyhow, I have loved this novel for 3 reasons: its Paris, its prose, and its psychology. PARIS: Baldwin vividly sketches in words that great city. Onion soup at 4 A.M. in dubious cafes....the indomitable concierge....the sweeping quarters....and the rest. PROSE: Baldwin's long sentences, preaching-inspired, roll and swell and flow on and redouble. And, PSYCHOLOGY: sure, the bleakness of David is "pre-gay-lib," let alone pre-gay marriage plus parenting! But homophobia is not yet slain, is it. Plus, more universal is David's struggling with the major human issue of (as Baldwin said in ANOTHER COUNTRY) "the life you have, you want, you think you want, you should want, and you think you should want." Today, more of us can sooner arrive at where David only started, in his first surrender to Giovanni and male love: "With everything in me shouting No, yet the sum of me sighed Yes." Baldwin's unique portrayal of human emotions as risky, vulnerable, dubious--a great gift of his--energizes this novel for me; always has.
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2.0 out of 5 stars "Just Above My Head" is FAR, FAR BETTER!!!, Aug. 22 1999
By A Customer
While "Giovanni's Room" is a fine novel, Baldwin does a much better job with the themes presented here (identity, sexuality, place, etc.) in his later novel, "Just Above My Head." My personal opinion is that "Giovanni's Room" has received such positive praise and hype in the gay (white) community becasue the characters are white. "Just Above My Head" is ignored and bastardized because it dares to challenge conventional (racist) white gay norms by showing clearly that black men can and do love other balck men. Because "Giovanni's Room" falls into one of the two acceptable camps (no black gays at all or black gays with white lovers) it is accepted. Baldwin's writing skills are strong here, however, and his use of the European backdrop is excellent. The confusion, anguish, and tension that Baldwin is able to generate in relatively few pages is truly outstanding. A worthwhile read, to be sure, but not the author's best waxing on the subject.
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2.0 out of 5 stars A fundamentally dishonest book., Aug. 3 1999
By A Customer
The gay community often praises this book for its treatment of a man coming to terms with himself and his sexuality. Yet in writing this work, Baldwin deliberately ignored one aspect of himself---blackness. The protagonist here is free to espouse his sexuality, but this freedom stems in part from the fact that he is white and does not suffer the burdens that being black *and* gay would create for him. Baldwin's protagonist can roam around Europe with his educated and affluent friends, and he doesn't suffer the condemnation for betraying his race that many black gays face from the black community. He doesn't face rejection from families versed in intolerant Southern Baptist traditions. He doesn't face the racism within the overwhelmingly white gay community that often leaves black gays out as undesireables. In writing a book that gets praised by the (white) gay world, Baldwin chose to ignore the very different pains that confront black gays. In a work thatis purportedly about freedom to be oneself, Baldwin's wilfull ommission of the race issue is dishonest.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The human condition . . ., Aug. 25 1999
By A Customer
The grip that Baldwin holds on human truths is staggering and without compare. It kills me to read/hear reviews that clearly miss the intentions of "Giovanni's Room;" this isn't a book that is supposed to be about race or gender or sexual orientation. The only way to truly enjoy this novel is to see past these surface level details to the true message, which simply tells us of passion and pain. The characters and subject matter are practically interchangable; the protagonist could be a black woman in love with a white man or a white woman in love with a black woman or a black man in love with a black woman. Baldwin must have known that love stories of all kinds must battle intolerance, conflict, struggle. And the fact that he was able to tell this particular love story in a "foreign" voice with such authenticity is one more indication of his presence as one of the most important authors of this century.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The human condition . . ., Aug. 25 1999
By A Customer
The grip that Baldwin holds on human truths is staggering and without compare. It kills me to read/hear reviews that clearly miss the intentions of "Giovanni's Room;" this isn't a book that is supposed to be about race or gender or sexual orientation. The only way to truly enjoy this novel is to see past these surface level details to the true message, which simply tells us of passion and pain. The characters and subject matter are practically interchangable; the protagonist could be a black woman in love with a white man or a white woman in love with a black woman or a black man in love with a black woman. Baldwin must have known that love stories of all kinds must battle intolerance, conflict, struggle. And the fact that he was able to tell this particular love story in a "foreign" voice with such authenticity is one more indication of his presence as one of the most important authors of this century.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Not bad (Two and a HALF stars), Jan. 21 2000
I agree with one reviewer in saying that the book is not really about race or gender, but passion and pain, loss and "what if's". And I think that's why it fell short of my expectations. While you are told that the two main men feel this passion for each other, it's hard to internalize it because the writer has basically ignored what should be a necessary interrogation into the complete aspects, not just the nature, of their relationship. We get a summary of what their love was. I couldn't help wanting to know more - more about the room; about what they did together in a sexual, and day to day sense; about everything! Perhaps the characterization needed to be slightly deeper. Let's hear a bit more about Giovanni at least; it's apparent the main character can't describe himself better, being as he is completely unaware of his true nature. A bit more description and angst and this book would have had a bit more oompf.
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Giovanni's Room (Penguin Modern Classics)
Giovanni's Room (Penguin Modern Classics) by James Baldwin (Paperback - Oct. 4 2001)
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