Giovanni's Room

by James Baldwin | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: Global Overview for this book
Registered by KateKintail of Burke, Virginia USA on 6/15/2008
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2 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by KateKintail from Burke, Virginia USA on Sunday, June 15, 2008
Got this last year from my birthday buddy, olered.

Baldwin's 1956 novel, his second, was daring for its time, depicting a young man deep into Paris's second expatriate movement following World War II as he grapples with his sexual identity. He is drawn both to his fiance and to a male Italian bartender with whom he begins an affair.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Journal Entry 2 by KateKintail from Burke, Virginia USA on Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Words like haunting, honest, emotional, and terrible barely begin to describe the content of this short novel.

First off, you have to consider that this was written in 1956. I am assuming that the main character is black (I can't even remember if that's explicitly stated anywhere in the novel!!!) but his race doesn't seem to matter. He could be anyone, anywhere in love (or in lust) and searching to find himself and his real feelings. The main character, David, goes through a fascinating journey, discovering what he is, trying to come to terms with what he is(straight, bi, gay?), trying to decide what he feels & who he wants. It's all too common and easy to relate to. I certainly read it because of the gay/bi elements, which are an important core of the book. But saying that it's LGBT lit doesn't come close to describing it.

Second, the characters seemed so real to me. They are imperfect, conflicted, sensual, passionate, thoughtful, reckless, selfish, curious, brave, and so much more. But mostly conflicted. I used the word "honest" above, I guess I should have said "realistic" because the main character is unable to be honest all the time, even with himself, and not everyone is able to be honest with him, either. But that's how life is. Sometimes you CAN'T say what you feel or admit who you love. Sometimes you DO hate yourself and feel guilty.

And even though you know from the beginning that we're being lured into a situation that we're told will end badly, you still have hope that these characters will get goodness from it. You know you're heading for a car crash but you're hoping that your favorite song will play on the radio one last time before it's destroyed. Does that make any sense?

Third, it is an amazing period piece. It's a great look at a young Ex-pat's time in Europe--culture, views, everything. And it's painful. The surroundings go from being wild and free and open to painfully small and stifling. The mood changes from passion and love to disgust so quickly, and back again. As Jacques puts it: "Nobody can stay in the Garden of Eden." And, yet... you'll have those memories and experiences of Eden within you the rest of your life. There's no escaping life OR yourself.

I wasn't immediately hooked, because it's quite different from what I typically read. I started it twice before really getting into it, in fact. But it's a quick read and quite an emotional one. I felt elated at times. I felt at times like I was suffocating. And sometimes I felt sick to my stomach because of a particular twist. But most of the time, I felt tied to the main character, willing to really try to understand him (as much as I could) and take this ride along with him.

Journal Entry 3 by KateKintail at Fairfax Station, Virginia USA on Thursday, January 21, 2010

Released 10 yrs ago (1/21/2010 UTC) at Fairfax Station, Virginia USA



Adding this to my LGBT Bookbox. I hope that this book is enjoyed!

Journal Entry 4 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Monday, March 15, 2010
This is one of those classics that I'd been wanting to read for ages and never got around to, so I was delighted to find it in the bookbox!

Journal Entry 5 by wingGoryDetailswing at Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Thursday, June 03, 2010
Well, now I understand everything I've heard about this book - and everything that KateKintail wrote as well. Lush prose contrasted with stark emotions, and a terrifying and infuriating sequence of events - I found it heartbreaking. While I had to admit that the narrator wasn't the only person who made very bad (and very cruel) choices, I couldn't help finding him as responsible for Giovanni's fate as he seemed to find himself - and even allowing for the time he lived in, I found it difficult to have much sympathy for him. I found it all grittily real and very, very sad... Thanks for sharing this one!

Just wanted to add a quote, from early in the book; Jacques, the only character here who seemed to have much sense, telling David what to do with Giovanni:

"'Love him,' said Jacques, with vehemence, 'love him and let him love you. Do you think anything else under heaven really matters?.... if you think of them as dirty, then they will be dirty - they will be dirty because you will be giving nothing, you will be despising your flesh and his. But you can make your time together anything but dirty; you can give each other something which will make both of you better - forever - if you will not be ashamed, if you will only not play it safe.'" If only, if only...

Journal Entry 6 by wingGoryDetailswing at Pennichuck Square Plaza in Merrimack, New Hampshire USA on Saturday, June 05, 2010

Released 10 yrs ago (6/5/2010 UTC) at Pennichuck Square Plaza in Merrimack, New Hampshire USA


I plan to leave this book on one of the benches in Pennichuck Square at around 2:30. Hope the finder enjoys it! [Later: Left the book as planned, on a bench near Giorgio's Bistro.]

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