‘The Godfather by Mario Puzo’ is one of the best known crime fiction. Though, just fifteen days ago, I could not even dream of reading such a novel, which I believed, was entirely based upon gangsters, heavily loaded with blood and venom, full of mindless violence, grotesque murders and iron-fisted revenge.
But, little did I know, that just one week spent in the company of brooding, narcissistic loser Victor Ashoke Kumar would make me so desperate that I would end up falling for an out and out crime novel. In fact, I was so fed up of whining and crying of the Prince, that I yearned for some real men, who could face the world with confidence and dignity. And, when I saw the short fat Godfather lying on the library shelf, I just could not stop myself and read through the first few pages, standing in the humid library itself. And, surprisingly, I found the story to be so interesting that I was through first 22 pages, even before I reached home! And, as soon as I reached home, I curled up with 593 pages of pure thrill for an entire week.
Well, before I begin to share my novel experience with my first mafia book, let me give you a sneak peek into the story. The story revolves around Don Vito Corleone, founder of the Respectable Mafia Family of New York. The novel begins with a court room drama, where two men accused of molesting a young girl are let off by the judge, despite solid evidence. The aggrieved father of the girl, Amerigo Bonasera, decides to use his connections with the good Don to get even with her daughter’s tormentors.
The story pretty soon shifts to the pleasant marriage scene of Don’s daughter, Connie Corleone, and the readers are shown the humane side of a well known mafia leader. Don Vito’s generosity and his clever worldliness in dealing with his friends and foes alike, makes him a favorite with masses, who are swayed by his magnanimity and are ready to overlook his cleverly hidden shrewdness. The Don, though involved in innumerable crimes, such as gambling, betting, smuggling and extortion, is essentially presented as a well connected man, rather than just a petty gangster. In fact, his rejection to deal with narcotics further strengthens his good man image. However, it earns him the ire of other families and he is fatally injured in the first 100 pages itself.
The story, which was till now, concentrating on Vito and his deeds, shifts gears, and brings into limelight his three sons, the aggressive Sonny, the powerful Freddy and the reticent Michael. Mario Puzo, in his inimitable style, concocts the best possible twist, as the characters of three sons change over a few lines. The indomitable Freddy breaks down, the volatile Sonny is chained up, while Michael, the muted Hero, transforms into a violent revenge seeker, ready to pump bullets into his father’s assailants.
By the time, I finished the first part, I was literally jumping with excitement. I could sense an uncanny similarity with ‘Ram Gopal Verma’s Sarkar’, and was desperate to find out all the twists and turns at one go. However, even the great Mario could not make everything perfect. After establishing a sound repo with the reader in the first part of the book (there are nine parts), for some unfathomable reasons, Puzo distracts the reader from the main story, and concentrates on an altogether futile sub-plot, featuring a failed singer, Johnny Fontane. Johnny is a dying star, who believes in coloring the town red, pink and purple with his love fountain, besides indulging in narcisstic snobbery. And, God knows why, the author decides to devote an entire part to his idiotic meanderings. As Fontane carried out his innumerable affairs, I humphed and pumphed to keep my sanity and interest alive.
Anyways, somehow I managed to survive the Johnny Virus. But, in the next part itself, there was another dampener. Brushing aside the dying curiosity of the reader, Puzo whistles away to give a detailed account of the Don Vito’s journey from an ordinary grocery labor to the dreaded Mafia Chief. Though, the story itself was not bad, its placement right in the middle of an interesting drama was pretty off the mark.
Had it not been for timely intervention by my bro, who is a huge fan of ‘The Godfather’ movies and took it as his moral duty to apprise me of the next possible twist, I would have given up the novel at this stage.
Though, thankfully, I did not, as after the initial hiccups, the story picked up pace in the fourth part, and was back on track, with the usual gangster affair taking place in the crowded New York and picturesque Sicily.
And, particularly, the last hundred pages of the novel redeemed the author’s reputation as a superb classic writer. Within a span of twenty four hours, the story was turned on its head, lots of twists were introduced, an utter chaos was created, forcing me to read at a frantic speed to keep pace with rapidly changing scenes, providing me the much needed thrill, I was expecting from the highly acclaimed author of mind numbing crime fiction.
All said and done, I must say that I would not rate this novel too high on the suspense part, most of the twists (barring a few at the end) were discernible, even before the author chose to divulge the secrets. But, he still managed to score some brownie points in the beginning as well as the end. The Don Corleone’s larger than life image, did impress me. The liberal use of mafia language, such as “made his bones”, “gone to mattresses”, and unforgettable pearls of wisdom from the great Don makes this novel exotic and rich.
At the end of the day, all is well that ends well, and I can say, without doubt, that the novel is a good read, particularly, if you are not a hard core crime novel enthusiast. The novel does have the potential to make you one.