Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Booknote: The Godfather Returns

Winegardner, Mark. The Godfather Returns. New York: Ballantine Books, 2005.
ISBN: 0-345-47898-3.
Genre: Fiction

I finally finished this last night. Readers who enjoyed The Godfather will likely enjoy this book. The novel adds depth to the characters that readers of Puzo's novel already know as well as adding some new elements. I found the book engrossing and pretty fast paced. In fact, I put aside pretty much everything else I was reading for leisure to get through this one. Winegardner's novel takes place after the events in The Godfather. It then covers the time right before and after the film The Godfather, Part II. In The Godfather, readers get the early life of Vito Corleone in a flashback (that's seen in the second movie); in Winegardner's novel, we get to see Michael Corleone's early life including his time in the Marines. In the novel, Michael is trying to keep his promise of having the Corleones become legitimate. However, in spite of his efforts, it is just not meant to be, and no, I am not spoiling anything by revealing this. Anyone who has read the other book or seen the films knows Michael is unable to keep that promise. Winegardner's novel provides more depth and gives us a better glimpse of what happened. We also get some interesting perspectives. For instance, Clemenza dies, and we get to see Fredo's death from a different point of view. Michael now faces a nemesis in Nick Geraci, a man who worked his way up in the Corleone organization and is now gunning for his own position.

Like Puzo's novel, this one has a good share of sex and violence. Winegardner stays pretty close to the tone and feel of Puzo's work even as he is weaving a new tale. Overall, if you are a fan of Puzo's work, you will definitely enjoy this novel. If you read this novel first, you may feel a need to seek out the original work. The only thing that I quite did not like was the creation of a fictional U.S. president clearly modeled in JFK. I think they could have gone with keeping a bit of the historical, but then again, I suppose he needed that in order to have the mob connection in place. I mention it because in the second film one of the things I found fascinating, as a history enthusiast, was the scenes in Cuba as the Batista regime was about to fall. There is a sequel to this novel, but I am getting the impression from the reviews that it is not as good. I got the sense from reading this one that I got some nice closure overall. Overall, I do recommend this one, but I also strongly recommend reading the original. And by the way, while the films are excellent, the novel has a lot of details that the movies do not include.

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