Written by James Baldwin

Publisher: Dial Press
Pages: 159
Genre: LGBT, Classic
Published: 1956-01-01
Original Language: English

Baldwin's haunting and controversial second novel is his most sustained treatment of sexuality, and a classic of gay literature. In a 1950s Paris swarming with expatriates and characterized by dangerous liaisons and hidden violence, an American finds himself unable to repress his impulses, despite his determination to live the conventional life he envisions for himself. After meeting and proposing to a young woman, he falls into a lengthy affair with an Italian bartender and is confounded and tortured by his sexual identity as he oscillates between the two. Examining the mystery of love and passion in an intensely imagined narrative, Baldwin creates a moving and complex story of death and desire that is revelatory in its insight.

Read from 2021-10-30 to 2021-11-05
Read in English
Rating: 4.5/5
Review: Giovanni’s Room has been on my to-read list for as long as I have had one, and it very much lived up to my expectations of it.

We follow the main character, David, as he lives in Paris, finding out what he wants and who he is. As part of this journey David meets Giovanni, a man who, for better or for worse, ends up teaching David more about himself than he would perhaps like to know.

This is a clever, immersive, wonderfully written story: it’s not big on twists and turns, but in a story that’s relatively straightforward it conceals just enough information for it to have some impactful revelations along the way. The inner conflict of the main characters balances perfectly the line between being present, while still leaving a lot unsaid, but very much present. The book has a nerve that stays strung throughout, and conveys a lot of very strong emotions and feelings in a “show not tell” kind of way.

At the very end the book felt a tad rushed to me, and took me out of the atmospheric bubble the rest of the book managed to keep me immersed in – but despite not ending with quite the gut-punch I maybe would have wished for, Giovanni’s Room is a very well-deserved classic and should belong on any and every list of books to read.