Giovanni's Room

By James Baldwin

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Readers` Reviews

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I personally avoided this book during my younger days, being strictly hetero sexual myself. However, at a much older age,I can appreciate the beauty of the writing. I found myself fully immersed and read it in one reading. I believe I gained understanding through my reading. I do regret not having read it at an earlier age. Sexual preferences aside, this is a jewel for one who can appreciate true literature and deeply emotional depiction of love and of self-discovery. Do yourself a treat and read this landmark of literature.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lindsay dutton
Vivid, passionate, dangerous...Baldwin's position in this novella ring true to the human struggles that quite frankly still exist and are relevant even today. I often found myself grappling with the fact that many of the personal demons and interactions the narrator David faced with his relationship with Giovanni were present during the period in which this was written. Great read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
stephanie cohen
"Giovanni's Room", set in Paris of the 1950's, is a memorable study of a tormented soul of a young American, David. Narrated in the first person singular, this novel is deep and dark, making the reader feel the David's emotions and passions.

David, who moved to France like many young Americans after the World War II, to pursue the freedom within the artistic atmosphere and the traditions of the Old World, found in fact the side of himself he did not expect to uncover.

Starting the story at the point of total exhaustion, on the verge of madness, just about to leave the South of France for Paris again (and then, perhaps, finally to return to the States - although the ending is open in this respect) David recollects his relationship with Giovanni, an Italian barman whom he met on the night while searching for money to pay his hotel bill (or for another accommodation). When Hella, David's girlfriend, travels in Spain trying to organize her thoughts far from David and get to know herself better in solitude, David decides to ask Jacques, a man he knew casually, for money. Jacques invites him for dinner and then they end up going for a couple of drinks to the gay bar. Jacques is a friend of the owner, Guillaume, and they abandon themselves in a conversation, although Jacques clearly fancies the young barman. When two older men leave them alone, David and Giovanni immediately feel attracted to each other and by the morning they go together to Giovanni's room, where David subsequently moves. Guillaume, who gave Giovanni the job in hope to win the boy's heart, is very jealous; Jacques is also a bit upset, but both of them hope that the relationship won't last.

Well... the relationship does not last, and this is the information revealed at the very beginning of the novel. David is, all in all, a disagreeable character (another novel in which the main character is not likeable, yet evoking sympathy in the reader because of his complexity and misery, and certainly possessing some charm, which he uses without scruples), who acts egoistically and opportunistically, but also according to convention. By being selfish and cruel to those who love him, he destroys not only them, but also himself. He cannot accept his love for Giovanni, because he fights his gay tendencies (he cannot even think about himself as gay and always tries to distinguish himself from "old fairies" like Guillaume and Jacques), but when he finally gives in, it is too late to rescue the relationship. Here lies, for me, the universal message in the story: what happens if by our own silliness, mistake, carelessness, or hard-headedness, whatever, we lose the love of our life and, worse, have an utterly destructive influence on him or her?

Giovanni is a great character, he is a complete opposite of David - he follows his instincts to the point of abandoning himself in them, at the same time doing it completely unconsciously - he is convinced that he acts very rationally and has reasonable plans for the future. When David leaves him upon Hella's return to Paris, Giovanni loses all the grip onto reality and that leads to the tragedy.

Hella, the only significant female character in the novel (except marginal, although complex, Sue, who is another person in the collection of people used by David) is also very interesting - basically, David treats her exactly the same as he treats Giovanni, but she is much more down-to earth and with typical American self- control manages to get back on her feet.

The story takes place in Paris, the protagonist breathes the existentialis atmosphere, wandering in the narrow, old streets during the night. His desperation does not prevent him from perceiving the beauty of the city, but at the same time the city adds to his melancholy. In a different setting the story would undoubtedly be different, and so the novel seamlessly connects its time, place and plot.

James Baldwin created a remarkable novel, full of introspective, universal questions that never get outdated. He managed to write about the problems, which at his time were rather hidden and unspoken. Very subtle prose and concise form round up the list of "Giovanni's Room's" qualities. This is the first book by this author I have read and I will definitely try more.
The Room in Grandma's House: A Fantasy Short :: Pocket Guide to the Operating Room (Pocket Guide to Operating Room) :: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron - The Smartest Guys in the Room :: The Room on Rue Amélie :: Rooms: a novel
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
It's possible that James Baldwin's main strength as a writer is his ability to be subtly insightful. He gets his ideas across without overpowering the reader with them. Much of the imagery that he uses in this novel is very poignant when considering the plight of both the main characer and Giovanni. That is, when considering the main character's inability to accept certain truths about himself, and the ramifications that has for others (I suppose, himself included).
While this book only occasionally sustains the lyrical flow that made Go Tell it on the Mountain so very distinctive, it's more daring in it's approach and subject matter. Very few writers would be able to handle the ebb and flow of personal denial and hard realization as gracefully and naturally as James Baldwin does. So, in a sense, what it gives up in style, it more than makes up for in content; which isn't to say the style of writing is bad (I wouldn't have given it five stars if it was). Compared to most other writers, Mr. Baldwin has a fluid, insightful pen. I'm simply basing my stylistic comparison on the near songlike quality of prose in Go Tell it on the Mountain (which I also highly recomend). Also, while toned down quite a bit, there are quite a few religious referances throughout this novel. So, If you have read, or studied the Bible, that layer will be readily apparent. It might also be a good idea to have an English to French dictionary with you (or at the very least a handy French student whom you can reference). This novel has an abundance of untranslated French snippets.
I would recomend this novel for anybody who is interested in the struggle to resolve one's sexual identity. I would also recomend this to anyone who is interested in sexual politics. Although I wouldn't necesarilly lump it together with the books written by the expatriates (Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Stein etc), anyone who likes those books may enjoy the European flavor of this one (with all of it's little snippets of french).
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
"Love him and let him love you."

A young American expatriate in Paris is torn between relationship with a woman and love affair with a man. Set in the 1950s, Giovanni's Room is a man's excruciating repentance, or rather reminiscence, of one particular lie among the many lies he has told in his life. Could it be the first love, or maybe his only love, because David has never for an instant truly forgotten his first love, Giovanni, and the thought of whom often gives a guilty lurch in his stomach. He feels in himself a faint, dreadful stirring of what so overwhelming stirs in him. He meets Giovanni at the bar while his girlfriend Hella vacations in Spain. But David is uneasy about this relationship that is no more than just a sexual escapade with Giovanni. A feeling of contempt and pique conquers him to an extent that fear and anguish have become the surface on which he slips and tumbles. Is David really confused as he claims to be? Or is he just afraid of being despised? He is on a constant struggle for social approbation that he will forfeit his Giovanni's love for him - maybe his love for Giovanni as well? He thinks being with Hella will rescue him from his love for Giovanni.

At first I am not sure how much David cherishes Giovanni until he confesses his irrevocable love for him. That he will never be able to love anyone like he loves Giovanni intensifies his mental struggle with the forbidden love: What kind of life can two men have together? He keeps on fighting his life, fighting his love because he sees no prospect of a life shared by two men. Beneath this struggle for social acceptance is laden with a deep calling to abandon the conventional norms of success, worth, and love. He views this abject terror of desire with interminable cynicism and cruelty.

Giovanni's Room explores the troubling emotions of man's heart with unusual candor and yet with dignity and intensity. It delves into the most controversial issue of morality with an artistry. The most touching and absorbing thing is Giovanni's unconditional love for David, whose fearful intimation opens in him a hatred for Giovanni that is as powerful as his love for him. This love for Giovanni has been meticulously suppressed, and is not recognized until the ineluctable separation, which compounds David's scruple. The loss compounds his regret of not confessing his love. Even though Giovanni is very fond of him already, Giovanni's affection and loyalty do not make him happy or proud, as it should. Aren't we all somehow like David? We always want to wait to make sure the feeling is right, but how can we be sure? To David Love can only be measured by the grief so inconsolable that is concomitant of his loss. To the rest of us it's a message to drop our ego for an ideal relationship.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
alison grooms
"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!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
"Giovanni's Room" is unique among Baldwin's novels for its all-white cast of characters--a decision that, his letters revealed, worried Baldwin somewhat, fearing that his portrayals would not seem authentic. His concerns turned out to be baseless; both Giovanni and David are convincing characters whose magnetism and flawed idealism stand in sharp relief to the cynical, grimy atmosphere of the bars and rooms they inhabit.

David is engaged to be married when his fiancee, Hella, travels to Spain to "find out" what she wants from life--and from David. He then meets Giovanni in a Parisian bar and their fate is sealed as soon as they enter Giovanni's tiny, claustrophobic room and its "outlines of clutter and disorder." David's internal struggle begins immediately: "if I do not open the door at once and get out of here, I am lost. But I knew I could not open the door, I knew it was too late."

I've come to think of Baldwin's "Giovanni's Room" as the inverted (no pun intended) example of Forster's "Room with a View," the book it oddly and inexplicably reminds me of. Although Baldwin is tragic where Forster is comic, the impossible coupling of stalwart David and carefree Giovanni echo the equally improbable pair of straitlaced Lucy and bohemian George. And in each novel, the foreign setting strips away David's and Lucy's inhibitions while it enhances Giovanni's and George's forwardness.

Both books, too, deal with a typically nineteenth-century theme, pitting moral honesty and romantic love against what "proper" society expects of its members. David is expected to marry Hella, as Lucy is expected to marry Cecil, and the comic or tragic outcome of each novel is determined entirely by the sincerity of the choices made by its characters. In Baldwin's more modern version, however, the virtue of David and Giovanni's relationship and the (yes) innocence of their love cannot ultimately withstand the pressures of society and the strictures of David's upbringing, and, inexorably, the couple become as sullied as the "clutter and disorder" of Giovanni's room.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I read Giovanni's Room for an English class at the college-level on the experience of foreignness. This has been one of my favorite classes and favorite teachers (not to keep beating on the word favorite, but maybe everything just came together really well?). We explored different ways of being foreign, first the more obvious - literally being foreign like being an immigrant, traveler, etc. Next, ways we could feel foreign, either by our personal interests or our political views.

Giovanni's room was just beautiful. It was a story of a man who felt foreign in his own skin, and traveled half way across the world to escape himself, only to trap himself, unable to escape. In Giovanni's room, he is exposed but cannot face himself, destroying himself and those around him. Baldwin is poetic. rhythmic. violent, emotional. and excruciatingly beautiful.

Revisiting the book again with the context of the author's background gives it another layer of complexity. Giovanni's room was published in 1956, during the post war era of social conformity. Baldwin, though black, writes exclusively about white characters experiencing sexual exploration. He himself left the US and went to Paris in 1948 due to American prejudice against homosexuals and blacks. In many ways, this novel has autobiographical elements.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
matthias beachy
Now older I have reread this book and remember the turmoil of the times it recorded. This is simply a masterpiece of understatement. There is a great jazz song that says something like listen to your heart, because the heart cannot lie. Thus is Giovanni’s Room.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Giovanni's Room is breath taking, and grabbed me from sentence one. I really can't do justice to James Baldwin's writing, but I can say this book was so emotional that I felt all the feels. He uses prose and imagery so well that I felt claustrophobic in that room. the characters are written perfectly, and Giovanni will leave you wretched. I will read more Baldwin for sure, and I am so glad I read this. The copy itself is beautiful, and I especially loved the built in bookmark.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
One thing I'll say right off: This is a book that can require several breaks from the reader, simply because its well-written despair worms its way into your mind and stays there. It's not the book you should read on a relaxing vacation, on your birthday, the day before your wedding, when you've already had an awful day. Still, it is a book you should read, because of Baldwin's insights into his characters and their situations.

David, the main character and narrator, is an emotionally stunted man without any direction in life, whereas Giovanni, his lover, is exhuberently emotional and, if not ambitious, seems to have a genuine optimism that ebbs and flows. We never know very many details about his life before meeting David, but a few revelations later in the novel give him more depth than he seems to originally have. Whereas David never has any convictions about the future, Giovanni is the one who wants them to stay together and find what happiness they can.

One area of the novel in which Baldwin falls short is in his thoughts on the roles of women in relation to men, as expressed by Hella, David's girlfriend-mistress-fiancee (the variety of titles she is given further indicate David's indeciseveness). It is unclear whether Baldwin himself believes in Hella's opinions, but they come across as cliched and, frankly, somewhat whiny. They don't add much to the novel, except to contrast Hella with Giovanni, something that can be done in far less space.

An interesting aspect of the novel is the question of how much of David's repression is due to his external circumstances, and how much is due to the ways he represses himself. It is definitely a combination of the two, but what exactly the combination is is the part of the novel that stays with you the most.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
yanling hao
My now-deceased cousin Charles was a gay painter who gave this book to me when I was 16. Back then I followed him around like his shadow, loving his stories of travel and lovers. I grew to travel and thought of how no matter where I went, I took me.
James Baldwin's Giovanni's room, seems to be a story of this realization, of not being able to escape yourself; despite being in the free-est position you'll probably ever be in again. Too bad San Francisco wasn't up and running for a man in his position, back then. Nowadays the pilgrimage to self identity is the same by plane, and having lived in both Paris and Frisco, Paris (for me) is definitely the place to face oneself.
James Baldwin's David seems to be fighting a demon that surfaced long before his sexuality came into question. Between the lines I'm seeing a portrayal of Mr. Baldwin's 1950's America as the P-envying society of self-hate that he has escaped. He arrives in America's parallel universe, Paris; a place where he is accepted without having to reinvent himself.
I lived in Paris for 4 years. I went there with my pre-conceived notions, and was introduced to theirs. Being an American woman in Europe, men see you as the unfulfilled dame who has not been allowed to blossom. They see you as the accepting and unsatisfied victim of a cocky, selfish, binging male culture. They feel obliged to help you recover. to show that quality not quantity is the answer. finesse not excess.
Baldwin's Giovanni's room is a book that makes me think, that the plague of identity issues, sexual, societal, etc., is a monster empowered by self-doubt, a parasite in which strength of character can only defeat. You are your own worst enemy.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jessica kwasniak
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.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
It is a shame that James Baldwin is so overlooked by the younger generations of readers. There is no parallel to the brilliance in his work and his writing style that is literary and thought provoking. "Giovanni's Room" packs a tremendous emotional punch with its narration of David, an American living in Paris during the 1950's. David's journey is the slow acceptance of his sexuality, as he carries on a relationship with the Italian bartender, Giovanni, while David's fiance, Hella, is abroad in Spain.
This novel has withstood decades of censorship on gay literature and we benefit from it. Baldwin takes on sexuality with grace and patience as we watch the narrator battle his own inner demons. Very early on, David tells us that he knows he is at fault for the suffering of those around him and that Giovanni will be will be executed on the guillotine the next morning. David then takes us back into his history with Giovanni and their life in the small room he rents. As the story unfolds, we watch as David creeps into the subculture of Paris, dependent on the money of his wealthy friends who loiter in the gay underground. Yet, there is a sense of contentment from the narrator with his new surroundings, though he does not openly admit to it. He sees his sexuality and his involvement in this "forbidden lifestyle" as a temporary one and then that fragile stability is shattered when Hella finally returns.
This book is a treasure that accurately documents one person's journey in self-discovery and questions the lines between love and desire. Thank you, James Baldwin, for what you've left behind for us.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
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.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
david grazian
Everything about this book made my mind spin in awe. The story, uniquely told through fluid "flashbacks"; the characters, especially the narrator; and the prose, that sang like poetry (and I am not a poetry person) were all placed perfectly in place.
This is the first novel from Baldwin I have read, and it will definately not be the last. I can't remember ever reading a book where it is told not through flashbacks, but through memories tempted by anticipation of an event yet to come. I love that. It's not just a cold recollection, it's as though each scene was tinted with David's emotions about himself and about what will happen to Giovanni.
At first, I was waiting for Hella's part to become apparent, but then I saw that she isn't what David is thinking about as he awaits the dawn. (Hey, sometimes I'm a little slow.) This could have easily been just a long inner monologue within one character, but it contributes the fascination and entertainment of a story.
Wonderful. This is how I would like to be able to write when I grow up.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Now and then it is healthy and rewarding AND enlightening to revisit some of the books in our libraries that are time-tested, durable pinnacles of literature. Such is the case of opening the cover of James Baldwin's inimitable, cherished novel GIOVANNI'S ROOM. Baldwin died in Paris in 1987 after gifting us with great novels and strong social commmentary. It is only fitting to return to the Paris of this wonderfully rich novel when the need to reflect on how writers of stature had the courage to begin the genre of novels dealing with same sex relationships in a manner of pure literature.
GIOVANNI'S ROOM is a fluid, nonlinear exploration of alienation: the narrator is living in Paris (having escaped the US with the smilingly shallow American image descried by Parisians), heads toward a "comfortably normal courtship/engagement" with a very normal fellow American girl also living in Paris/Spain, and quite by accident encounters his repressed sexual self when he meets Giovanni, an expatriated Italian. The subcultures Baldwin details are palpably present on every page - many characters seem like enemies until their roles in the journey of these two men unfold and clarify. The title of the book is well chosen: Giovanni's room which he shares with David our narrator is claustrophobic, unkempt, dour, and threatening - an apt description of the mental environment this stumbling act of finding a new type of love creates. Baldwin lets us know from the start that we are entering a doomed affair of the heart and it is this atmospheric, eloquently written memoir that adds to the sense of the inevitable isolation that makes this a great novel.
Enough cannot be said about the beauty of Baldwin's prose, the richness of his terse description of the city of Paris, his uncanny ability to paint characters that are wholly three-dimensional. This book merits frequent re-visits. It is a rare vintage wine.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
julie booth
Giovanni's Room (1956) followed Carson McCullers' Reflections in a Golden Eye (1941) and Gore Vidal's The City and the Pillar (1948) as early American mainstream novels focused unambiguously on male gay relationships. The difference was that McCullers was a young woman and Vidal an unknown at the times they wrote their books. Giovanni author James Baldwin, on the other hand, was a male writer already celebrated for his debut novel Go Tell It on the Mountain, so he had a lot to lose by writing a book about a gay relationship that would undoubtedly be regarded as at least partly autobiographical.

To me, however, a more interesting comparison is not McCullers or Vidal but another novel published a year earlier in Paris (where Giovanni is set and where Baldwin was living at the time) that also focused on a relationship considered highly illicit: Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. Both novels are written in the first person with a narrator trying to justify his feelings and actions. (Before I get castigated for equating statutory rape with consensual adult gay sex let me be clear that I am relating them only in how they would have been perceived in the time in which they were written.)

Lolita's narrator, Humbert Humbert, is defiantly self-justifying about his actions and unrepentant about them, but also extremely witty, charming and urbane. David, the narrator of Giovanni's Room, is a lot more conflicted and not nearly as charming. In fact, he admits to being a bit of a louse in how he treats erstwhile lover Giovanni, and he is in at least partial denial about his sexuality. Interestingly, the objects of both Humbert's and David's affections die tragically and both stories are told in flashback where the end is revealed in the first few pages, lending a kind of elegiac flavor to the story.

To me one of the charms of Lolita (the book, not the girl) is the marvelously arch depiction of America that Humbert adds to his story. Similarly, Baldwin enriches his tale with his evocation of Paris in the immediate post-WWII years, something he knew too well to sentimentalize (for more on Baldwin's view of Paris, check out two of the essays in his Notes of a Native Son, "A Question of Identity" and "Equal in Paris").

This world of young, feral hustlers and predatory older johns provides context to David and Giovanni's story. It reminded me of Vidal's descriptions in City and Pillar of the much more upscale parties thrown by Hollywood's gay underground in the 1940s, where also communication in code was the rule. Both are worlds of exploiters and counter-exploiters driven into their isolated worlds by the hostility of the larger culture.

Giovanni is not a long book. You can read it in a day or so if you devote some time to it, but it is a wonderfully assured piece of imaginative literature with a fascinating central character who is not only not sure if he is gay but even if he can love. Further ambiguity is lent by the character of Giovanni, a young, poor Italian living on the edge in Paris who isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer but who initially seduces David and sets the tragic train in motion.

A definite five star work.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kim hibbert
This was the first Baldwin work I had ever read. I really knew very little about him or his style. All I knew was that he was an openly gay African American male who exiled himself in Paris during the 1950s. That's enough for me to be curious about what he has to say. (As an aside: those few one and two star reviews for this novel are given by readers who lack the curiosity to see the world from a perspective not their own--the exact opposite of what reading is meant to be about). Anyway, "Giovanni's Room" is perfectly compact and has a fluidity so smooth that reading it straight through is simple (being just under 180 pages helps too). But do not let the short length of this novel fool you. It is chalk full of emotional depth and wonderful detail. Baldwin's prose style is so lush, without being unnecessarily complicated. He creates complex, multi-dimensional characters with whom many readers can relate. Even the antagonists in the novel are given a certain level of humanity so that we can sympathize with their plights.

This is not a gay book. This a story of heartbreak, regret, and the despair of not being able to be oneself. These themes are as timeless as Shakespeare. Vacillation between two separate parts of oneself (Hamlet). The desire to be with a forbidden love (Romeo & Juliet). Those who criticize this novel as simply a gay-themed book are missing the more human aspects that apply to us all. Don't be fooled by their false objections! Read this book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
paul mccain
James Baldwin's stories are more like poetry, describing painful circumstances as dreamy metaphors. I felt myself pulled away from the story a few times to ponder what Baldwin is expressing through this story, for example he writes something about not choosing your friends or who you love, just as you don't get to choose your parents. He forces you to stand in the shoes of each character, feeling as though you were naked, because the message, for me at least, is clear. If people would allow themselves to feel total honesty with themselves, then perhaps the way they are choosing to live their lives would be completely, way over on the opposite end of the spectrum then what is actually real. No sexual orrient, race, religion. Just looking inside yourself and saying "yes". And if you think I'm just getting to romantic over a story, still read this book. James Baldwin is a master at story telling. Even if you don't feel as I do about this book, I'm sure you'll feel something. It is, for me, one of those stories you thin kabout long after you've read it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
tim sanders
James Baldwin's _Giovanni's Room_ (1956) is a challenging work of literature that explores a summer in the life of an expatriate named David who is living in Paris after World War II. David must come to terms with his own contradictory desires. David's life in Paris in the 1950s--where homosexuality, while not illegal, is stigmatized--affords him a certain amount of space to discover what he wants and what he can accept. His dilemma, on the surface, can be stated simply: he is passionately in love with a young Italian man, Giovanni, yet he is also engaged to Hella, an American woman with whom he can live, on the surface, a "socially acceptable" life. On a deeper level, the novel is a study of the loneliness that comes with an absence of self-acceptance.

David shares many characteristics with Ernest Hemingway's young, expatriate anti-hero Jake Barnes in _The Sun Also Rises_. In David, Baldwin has created a character who remains, ostensibly, detached from the world, which lends to his anti-hero a veneer of invincibility and hard assurance. There are a number of passages, especially intimate scenes, described from a mechanical third-person point of view. Giovanni at one point asks David, "Do you know how you feel? Do you feel? What do you feel?" to which David replies, "I feel nothing now, nothing." David's inability or unwillingness to be honest about his feelings, however, undermines his relationships with others and his sense of self, and ultimately leaves him profoundly alone.

The novel suggests, more hopefully, that the loss of innocence, if accepted, can be the beginning of a journey that leads to knowledge. The novel takes place as a flashback over the course of one evening in a rented house in the south of France before David will take a train back to Paris the next morning. Drinking by himself in the large, empty house and looking at a window, David recalls this statement from an acquaintance named Jacques: "Nobody can stay in the Garden of Eden." This is an idea which frames the novel and perhaps offers David one way to understand his life.

A few final notes: The final paragraph of the novel is incredible, suggesting how actions, despite our most earnest hopes when we have erred, stay with us. All of the descriptions of Giovanni's room are artistic and reflect David's psychology. The novel portrays a cruel side of Paris (a characteristic, I think, which all large cities share to some degree), where lives on the margins are often bought and sold, and where there can be a calculated indifference to suffering.

This is a riveting work of literature that has many levels of meaning.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
ali eastman
A deeply felt and personal short novel about an American ex-patriot who falls in love with another man in Paris. Baldwin establishes an undeniable tension between David's desire for Giovanni and his desire to live a normal life with his fiancee. There are many quiet and subtle moments in 'Giovanni's Room' that are as good as the best sections in early Hemingway. In a way this novel is more personal and reflective than Baldwin's much esteemed 'Go Tell it On the Mountain,' though it clearly does not have the same political involvement with race relations as the latter does. As always, Baldwin's dialogue is largely impeccable, weaving seamlessly from colloquial interactions, to French, to formal and reserved English. Truly a fine literary achievement.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
indu r
Giovanni's Room is my first taste of James Baldwin's brilliance. In less than 200 pages it transports the reader to 1950s France and tells of a complex love triangle between two men, one Italian and one American, and an American woman (who is 'off stage' most of the time touring Spain). What elevates Giovanni's Room beyond the realm of a soap opera or trite gay fiction are its brilliant prose (Mr Baldwin seemingly cannot write a bad sentence), terrific characterizations (especially of the troubled Giovanni and his pathetic 'friends'), and its ability to capture the atmosphere of Americans living in 1950s Paris ( reminds me of Patricia Highsmith's latter 'Ripley' mystery novels). The book is sad and uncompromisingly honest.
Bottom line: WAY beyond sterotypical gay fiction. Giovanni's Room is by any standard fine literature. Compulsory.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
amado luzbet
How does one even begin to talk about Giovanni? I'm so overwhelmed still, and I can confidently say, that Giovanni's Room is my favorite book of 2013 so far ... maybe. This novel speaks to James Baldwin's ever-present awareness of his foreignness, his separateness, his Otherness. Giovanni's Room is one of the truest most tragic novels I've read in a long time because it speaks to my sense of Otherness, too.

Read the rest of my long-winded, blabbering review here: [...]
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
liz hardesty
James Baldwin's moving, insightful prose makes the case for alternate sexuality with believability and deep poignance. While a writer as great as E. M. Forster only skirted the surface of his homosexual feelings, Baldwin treats them with depth and clarity; indeed he makes the best case for the lifestyle since D. H. Lawrence in WOMEN IN LOVE with the Gerald/Rupert relationship. GIOVANNI'S ROOM goes much further of course, but in never becomes political as much modern literature does. Baldwin concentrates on the emotions, the painful beauty of love in its many forms, and the conflicts that become inevitable. Whether you're a proponent of 'alternative' lifestyles or not hardly matters; this book transcends such pigeonholing, as all great literature does.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
James Baldwin's novel is a timeless, classic work. Everytime I read this novel I find new things and I fall in love with the book all over again. It is my favorite novel, period. For me the Paris that Baldwin writes about is not that far away from contemporary gay society. It is amazing how much has changed for the community while men (although not all) have remain mostly the same. There are certain parts of this book that will always remain with me, the shift in the narrative from present day to past memory, cental character, David's experimentation and later rejection of his friend Joey, David's first meeting with Giovanni, and the white, paint smeared window in Giovanni's room that separated two men in love from world that was not yet beginning to understand. In closing, I can't say enough how much I recommend this novel.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
donna keesan
One cannot help but marvel at the complex psychology of this narrative, with all its curves of suspicion and corners of uncertainty. Baldwin displays the mind of an individual reluctantly discovering a new piece of his identity. The work is thoroughly 'gay' insofar as it adopts an incredibly diverse personality. It seems impossible to say plainly what a gay man is, and Baldwin's narrative testifies to this impossibility. His narrator is observant, yet obscure. He shows us almost everything we might imagine ourselves to see, and yet the novel offers no conclusions.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
martha musselman
Although this was a book I read in one stretch, I had mixed feelings about the story after the last page. One of the striking things about the book was how recognisable the characters still are. The story is written in 1956, about the Paris gay scene of 1953. The story I read was about Amsterdam 1999.
The main thing that bothered me was the main character. David is a guy who has the power to transmit to everyone around him a sense of defeat and purposelessness. He is an emotional parasite, who flourishes by draining out of Giovanni and Hella the vitality that both are trying to preserve with difficulty.
In a certain way, I feel that the story should not have been told the way we read it. David (the main character) is a writer. He emotionally destroyed the two people closest to him. And instead of hiding out in shame, he tells us every nasty detail of it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
laurie seeber
David is an American living in 1950's Paris, trying to flee from bad memories of home with his father. He has a finacée Hella, who has just left for Spain to make sure that she is ready to wed David. While she's away, David allows his urges to take him to one a gay bar, where he meets Giovanni, a young, Italian bartender. They strike up a friendship, and for financial reasons, David moves into Giovanni's tiny room.
Throughout the novel, David is conflicted with his feelings of love, loathing and guilt for Giovanni and for his own homosexuality. He loves Hella, too, but desparately wants to find out if her love is what he truly desires, almost willing her to save him. Author James Baldwin uses a very flowing style to permeate his novel with these emotions, allowing the reader to both sympathize and distrust Giovanni and David. One is strong and sure of himself; the other is fighting a battle in his head over what he feels. This creates one of the better novels dealing with someone coming to terms with his or her own sexuality.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
karen duffin
First, ignore the review on the the store page from "The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature". What a horrible review! While it is not really negative about the book, it makes the book sound so sterile and boring!
If you want to see what really great writing is like, try out Giovanni's Room. This was my introduction to James Baldwin and now I'm a huge fan. While I read the book because it was a groundbreaking early gay novel, I love it because it is an intriguing story and beautiful book. Baldwin's characters are so real you really can share their emotions, feel their pain, and experience their turmoil. You can certainly find more progressive gay stories out there, but for the 1950's, this was daring and new.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I read this book about 10+ years ago. I was just going through my books looking for something to read during my commute. When I ran accross this book it was not about what I read 10 years ago it was just a feeling I got. I have started to read this book again and from the first page there was that same feeling again. The yearning and aching feeling of love forbidden and this need to turn page after page knowing that this is a loved that doomed from the onset, but hoping somehow there will happy ending.

Then you realize you are still in real world. I giving this book to my grandaughter.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Although advancing in its fifties, Giovanni's Room is a novel which does not get older, it only gets better. It still strikes the reader with the courage and opennes with which James Baldwin tackles his largely unspeakable (at the time of its writing) subject matter. The pains and tortures of search for sexual identity are rendered with real mastery and even if the ending may seem a bow to the demands of an age long gone, it only adds to the psychological truth of the novel. An absolute classic!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
When I picked up "Giovanni's Room" for the first time, I was seeking to get some first hand knowledge of the Harlem renaissance. When I finally put it down , I felt as though Mr. Baldwin had opened up his chest and outstretched his heart to me. This book is a must read for anyone who is struggling with the life they have always seen for themselves and their own trueness to self, regardless of sexual orientation. I cannot recommend this book enough to anyone who sees life as a journey and not a destination.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
rachel macdonald
This book was so different from the other books I have read in my time. Baldwin really impressed me with his mysterious, and at times, dark imagery. There was so much passion, hope, and fear in the plot. I became a fan of Baldwin right away especially because of the daring dialogue among the characters' dealing with sexuality. I also admired the fact that Giovanni's Room is uncoventional in detailing David's (a man) love and interest in another man. I recommend that one read this book because Baldwin is an extremely passionate story teller.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
gabriela jochcov
I first read this book when I was in the sixth grade and it was not until some time later that I realized it was about homosexuality. To be honest, I never realized this on my own - someone else told me. This is proof of the greatness of James Baldwin, he created characters, scenarios so commonplace that there was a modicum of relativity on every level of the story. He treated the situations and problems in Giovanni's Room as everyday happenstance - because they were and because they are. To deny this fact is like denying that there is air and earth and sky. No matter how unique an obstacle is for the characters Baldwin created - they are still the reality of the world in which they inhabit. So, it is their only reality and not unique to them - it is their life.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
paul voltaire
I think this book is beautiful, I don't think that Baldwin needs to include race in it. Yes he is black, but the book talks about a man who is a disappointment to himself and his surroundings, a man who discovers himself to be different, he wasn't born different. This book might as well be a buildungsroman, only we don't see any development or acceptance or even rejection! We just see a man who appears to be absolutely normal, aspires to have the American dream, and intentionally qualified unlike many black people at such times, yet we discover that even the seemingly mainstream population is in fact not so American! I think having a white protagonist did serve a very significant role and I think Baldwin wrote it beautifully!
My book is marked on a paragraph I tend to reread often, it talk about the garden of Eden, the flaming sword, remembrance and forgetfulness! How can you say this book is not beautiful!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
bennett cohen
This is a story that maybe a little controvercial to some, but nevertheless it is such an EXCELLENT book!
The story takes place in paris during a time when most blacks were in the US and few vendured outside the US. The twists and turns of the sexuallity context is handeled BEAUTIFULLY by means of letting the reader know but not know. The character ultimately is drawn between the woman and the man in his life and is frankly confused.
Without giving too much away, the book just keeps your attention and has you drawn in so much that you want to complete the book in one sitting....Now that's what a book should do!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lisa young
One of my favorites novels of all time and perhaps the finest gay book ever written. This is the brilliant story of David, a closeted expatriate living in 1950s Paris whose world is rocked to its very foundations when he falls in love with bartender Giovanni. The spring affair ends in disaster, leaving both death and mournful regret in its wake. A driving narrative, numerous passages of incredible insight, poetry, vibrancy, and emotional gravity combine to make this pre-Stonewall classic a profound and unforgettable reading experience. Tragic and terrific!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
One reviewer stated that it was a shame more young readers were not reading Baldwin. It has taken me almost 35 years to discover him. One of the best writers of the 20th Century.
The subject matter (as you can see in other reviews) is a bit controversial for the time. However, Baldwins lyrical prose is certainly an enjoyment to behold.
I also read Notes of a Native Son at the same time as this book and its a great companion piece. Baldwin was an Expatriate living in Paris during the 50's and Notes give you further insight into Giovanni's Room.
A must read novel...A must read AGAIN novel!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
It's taken me a long time to read this book, but I'm glad I finally did. It's a sad story, beautifully written and it's obvious why it is considered a classic as it is very timely in today's world as it must have been a brave book to write at the time.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
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.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
cory mcquillen
Giovanni's Room is one of James Baldwin's best work of literature. In the book he expresses all the circumstance that went along with homosexuality in the 1950's set in Paris. His technique in writing the book is so great that if a person is not paying a lot of attention they probably wouldn't even know that the book is about homosexuality. Baldwin makes homosexuality seem like a simple everyday thing. He is not an explicit, provocative writer, yet you feel and see everything that he wrote. Instead of being all about physical acts, in the novel, he more discusses the emotional. Baldwin told of how homosexuality not only affects the person dealing with their sexuality, but the people that surround that person. He wrote of how most homosexuals have to live hiding who they really are just so that society will accept them.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I read Giovanni's Room originally when I was in my 20's and loved it.
Now at 51, I just reread it. This time around it struck me as a tad overwrought, but still a wonderful book. It's certainly one of the most beautifully written books I've ever read. The prose just flows gracefully along like a Brahms Intermezzo. Baldwin captures the anguish of a man struggling with his sexuality and the impact that has on others beautifully. His insights into human nature are keen. Despite being written in the 50's when homosexuality was quite taboo, the book has aged remarkably well and in no way feels dated. Highly recommended.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
sadegh jam
I have always found James Baldwin's novels to be incredibly boring and extremely over-worded. It's nice to have a change; I actually enjoyed this book. Once I started it, I found it almost impossible to put it down. This is a great book for anyone who is struggling with sexuality, identity, lost love, or just everyday problems. Even though the time setting is in the 1950's, anyone, in any time period, can relate to the lives of the characters in this novel. I myself found a link between my life and the life of the main character, David. We both were trying, in vain, to escape a terrible past (rather a past that seemed terrible in our own eyes) only to have it come back later on in our lives. For David, it was his struggle with figuring out his true sexual identity. It seems that in Paris, where the novel is set, people are more accepting of the whole gay/lesbian "conflict" than we (should I even say "we"?)Americans are. A huge percent of the American population is either gay/lesbian/bisexual or confused about their sexuality. It's a shame that we, as Americans, can't accept people for what they are. Sexuality has nothing to do with the character of a person, it's just the lifestyle they choose. This book will help anyone (well, anyone with an open mind anyway) understand that anyone can fall in love with anyone - no matter what sex - at any given time. Don't read the book just because it's about "gay people"; read it because you need some directions and/or guidelines in finding out who you really are and what you really want in life.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Beautifully written account of the struggles of human sexuality and affections, particularly poignant to those of us who came out at a time when there was little or no acceptance. Baldwin touches on an array of emotions common to all of us: gay or straight, male or female. This is a novel that moves the elders to recollection and the youth to a better understanding and acceptance of the realities to which they owe their current and still evolving freedom.
I waited long for Kindle to offer this novel and I was not disappointed.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
bruno silva
James Baldwin is, without a doubt, one of the most eloquent and talented authors that I have ever been exposed to. In his novel, Giovanni�s Room, Baldwin explores the struggle between a man and his sexuality. Torn between his feelings for another man and another woman, we are taken through David�s journey of joy, love, anger, pain, and confusion. Through secrets and lies, the story unfolds, teaching that there are no excuses when it comes to real love.
This is by far one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. Each sentence leaves you with a good taste in your mouth. Baldwin�s passion and power in writing is proved clearly all throughout the book. His word choice and sentence development is absolutely wonderfully printed, that each page simply flows one after the other. His ability to develop and express each character�s thoughts keeps the reader wholly engaged; feeling attached to their personal dilemmas. At the end of the book, you are left with the feeling of complete satisfaction. Although this is a story of a gay man�s struggle, it is a story that affects everyone regardless his or hers sexuality. Everyone who has ever been found in a conflict with themselves will discover that this book will touch the hearts, leaving the longing to come in touch with their true self. Anyone who has been caught between desire and morality will relate and find that this book captures the genuine feelings of that difficult and tense struggle.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Baldwin's story covers the triangle love affair of David, an American living in Paris in the early 50's. In an age when same-gender sex was seen as abnormal - and indeed illegal in most countries - David struggles against his feelings for Giovanni, a young Italian barman he connects with whilst his girfriend, Hella, goes away to reconfirm her feelings for him. It is a fast read but covers magnificently - with style and elegance - the dilemma of a man at war with his carnality.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
christopher bennett
This turned out to be an excellent book! Filled with passion, love, desire, devastation. All these emotions and more were spawn, fed, and flourished in Giovanni's room. Powerfully written and eloquently told, the story draws in any reader who hass ever been a tennant in Giovanni's room (and we all hve if we're lucky!). A definate must read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This book took me away. To Paris, to the streets and bars, to traveling abroad, being young and unsure. It was written with such emotion - it tapped into deep and unfortunate sadness but also an awakening. While I am not a man, I related well to Hella but also to David as he struggles to understand who he is. A strongly written book - Loved it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Giovanni's Room is such a poignant, touching, and finely crafted novel that deals with homosexuality, love, and death in a way that one rarely finds in one. The characters, each and every single one of them, are as real as anybody today in the 21st century. The emotions described in the book are so real and vivid that the novel rarely reads like a novel. A touching story, sharp social commentary, and a very vivid view of what homosexuality was like back in the 1960's in Paris.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
kerri ann
James Baldwin is masterful in conveying underlying motives. In his book, Giovanni's Room, he deals very tactfully with the moral pitfalls of sexual relationships. The hero, David, is torn between feelings of homosexuality and heterosexual relationships. Far from being the politically correct propoganda most likely to be published today, Baldwin shines the light of his craft on this subject with startling honesty. He shows great insight into the psyche underpinning moral choices. The character development for the main characters is good but could be better for the others. Yet for such a relatively short novel he does a good job. If you want to read a novel that seems to honestly deal with the realities of this subject, this is the one. He shies away from being hyper-critical in a moral sense, yet doesn't attempt to soften the harsh realities of living this lifestyle. Overall, an excellent read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
hanne sercu
What a beautifully written book! I read it for my book club. I had heard of James Baldwin, but had never read anything of his before. I loved the depiction of Paris - the sleazier, decadent life underneath the beauty, and the depiction of the bars and the sad characters that Giovanni hung out with. The depiction of the main character's feelings for Giovanni and for his fiancee were just amazingly written - some of the best writing about feelings of love that I have read - the positive and negative. Heartbreakingly sad. Everybody in my book club LOVED the book - I think it is one of only two books which has received a 100% thumbs up from us all!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
theresa younce
No assistance or convincing is required for one to acknowledge that Baldwin is indeed a very gifted writer. However, in GIOVANNI'S ROOM, it is less evident as to whether or not he is a great novelist. While his ability to describe complex emotions and deeply depict the political nature of courting and romance is superior, the plot suffers as the book progresses. Giovanni is an incredibly charming and likeable character upon his introduction; however, as soon as he forms a relationship with David, the protagonist, there seems to be a shift in the development of his character (or is it a regression of his character?), after which he remains rather unlikable and someone for whom you do not feel empathy.

As a result, the romance between Giovanni and David suffers throughout the book - and the capriciousness of David's sexuality calls into question the legitimacy of his love for Giovanni. This is disappointing to readers who are looking for a love story - even a tragic one. For who wants to read a love story where the love isn't assured? I think the plot needed more time to allow the reader to fully accept and digest the magnitude that these two men, supposedly, feel for each other.

The ending of the book, including the crime that Giovanni commits, seems irrelevant and forced - as if Baldwin was merely trying to come up with a legitimate way to end the story. This is perhaps my biggest complaint with the book. Again, the plot moves too quickly while characters change dramatically, all of which lead the reader to feel as though the plot is implausible.

Finally, the book is littered with various French phrases and short sentences which add no substance to the book, but seem to exist merely as a way for Baldwin to flex his knowledge of the language - as if somehow this will give the story's setting extra legitimacy (which it didn't need). I have a background in French and was able to understand most of this superfluousness, yet still found it rather annoying and distracting.

Many have suggested that David is rather unlikable; personally, I find his character to be the most honest and authentic, as well someone to whom I can relate. Through David, Baldwin hits the nail on the head when depicting the complexity and despair homosexuals feel when they are simultaneously involved with partners of both sexes. And while the honesty of David's emotions, with respect to both Giovanni and Hella, may be unattractive to some readers - it's clarity and accuracy cannot be ignored.

The book is certainly worth a read, and its impact and value must be measured in the context in which it was written. It is/was an overwhelmingly progressive novel, and no doubt a contribution to `gay' literature (if that's how you wish you classify the novel; I do not). However, this book being published today would hardly turn an eye. Read it to understand Baldwin, read it to understand the timeframe, read it for a glimpse into the complexity of homosexual relationships, read it to enjoy Baldwin's outstanding writing abilities - but don't read it for the plot.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
shihab azhar
This novel capture the style of a European novel, and deals with both American and European characters. It is truly one of the most moving novels I have ever read. This is a true love story, capturing real elements of relationships and issues of sexual indentity. A moving and powerful novel.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This is one of James Baldwin's best novel. The young man's struggle with his sexuality and the person who loves and ultimately pays the price for his struggle will make you cry and keep reading through your tears. Buy the book and everything else James Baldwin has written.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Giovanni's Room has that rare feeling of urgency. It is a love story that takes place within the shattered confines of the human spirit. We are taken on a literary journey that can be both insightful and heartbreaking at the same time. Despite being written decades ago, Baldwin's piece still resonates with us, for the themes and commentaries from Giovanni's Room still transpire even today.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
claude cahn
The first book I ever related to, Giovanni's Room tells the story of a man struggling to come to terms with his own inside self. The room from which we get the title, the barman Giovanni's room, comes to symbolize the gay life, the gay world. Through this book, the title character is grappling with whether or not he wishes to remain in this room, this world, or whether he needs to conform to what is expected of him by mainstream society. As a gay man, I can honestly say it is a struggle we all go through, and Baldwin captures all the nuances of this very hard decision with great feeling and an amazing eye for detail.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
emily blum
i love givannis room so much, james baldwin writes a story that is short and compact, but oh so good. Giovannias room is an extrememly easy read, i had to read it again after i read it the first time. I saw a bit of myself in the characters, which made it especially interesting to me. Im sure you will find a bit of yourself in the characters as well. There are people who love and those who are loved and its hard not to be able to relate to this story. it is my fav book of all time, and it started me on all of james baldwins great books.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
erik johnson
I have just discovered James Baldwin, and, to say the least, I am not disappointed. Please do yourself a favor and buy for yourself this wonderful book. I am looking forward to reading many more of Baldwin's books. He is a flawless writer.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kelly holmes
As an avid reader, I felt as though I had rediscovered the joy reading can bring after being exposed to Giovanni's Room. The book was not simply written for homosexuals. It was written to open our eyes to the possibility that perhaps, like David, we are repressing our feelings out of fear. I walked around in a daze after completing it. Baldwin had a truly amazing gift to be able to convey those emotions through his characters. For anyone who has not yet picked up this book, I strongly recommend, better yet, I strongly advise you to let yourself fall into Baldwin's world.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
freya su
This has undoubtedly become my favorite book. Never have I had the need to reread a book till I was brought to this book. I could write comments about this book greater in length than the book itself, so I won't say more. It's a book you feel. Like the embrace given to a grieving friend,indescribable.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
alizabeth rasmussen
I loved this book! It was hard for me to understand at first but once I read it a second time :-) I understood it better and I am in the middle of reading it a 3rd time already and I got to thinking about his girl Hella. I find that near the end of the novel when she returns to David that some of the things she said is a way I possibly feel about my husband. It was a little scary at first almost as if someone had read my mind and wrote down my thoughts. But I think that Hella knew from the moment she and David and Giovanni were in the same space that David and Giovanni had been together. I think she should have left them to be because I thought that David and Giovanni should have been together. They shared many things together but Hella just always cut into it. I think it was Hella's fault that Giovanni was executed because she was playing games with David. But then again David should have seen her litlle games and left and been done with her a long time ago. I know I would have. She is the cause of David's problems I think. But what do I know, I'm only reading for the 3rd time so there is probably so much more I haven't been able to understand yet....
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
samantha zimlich
This novel presents the captivating dichotomy of love as experienced between two men and also their individual relationship to the societies to which they belong. It is beautifully written with a potent poetic rhythm as well as an introspective look into the thoughts and emotions of the characters.It's a must read for anyone who enjoys good literature!
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
april smith
James Baldwin is an overrated writer in my opinion. I've read three of his "best" works and am not just basing this sentiment on one novel. Giovanni's room begins excellently; it vividly captures the mood of Paris and its more colorful characters. It presents the inner conflicts of Jacques and the main character well. But by the middle, it goes downhill with stereotyping (Giovanni is the proverbial loudmouth chauvanist Italian who's prone to fits of rage and crying; Hella is the spoiled, scattered-brain blond with no backbone; and Jacques is the sad, empty queen). In the end the story becomes a melo/crime drama. And what was the point? The main character was always a cold, detached soul that never came to any realization at the end, wasn't changed, and made no decisions about his life and treatment of people. Even THAT wasn't made the point.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
jason dejohn
This book was written a long time ago for a completely different audience. That being said, this is still a good book that gives insight on to the lives of people in France in the early 20th century as well as possibly opening people's eyes to the idea of homosexuality in a whole new light. Baldwin creates real people, that could be me or you, and puts them in a situation that isnt too far fetched to consider, and does a good job of showing how people act.

Although it is old and slightly out dated, it is still an interesting and worth while read in today's world.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
christina gross
Baldwin's book is nothing short of amazing. His characters are all incredibly interesting, and not one of them without emotion. Some passages are so true to life, it's worth reading the book for just those few words. Not to say the book isn't amazing as a whole. You'll feel each characters anguish and struggle, it's almost too difficult to take sides.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
megan ricker
The book Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin really helped me understand how people feel when they are uncertain about their sexuality. Some people are still trying to hide how they feel by masking their feelings having a normal relationship with the opposite sex. This society makes those people feel alienated as well as uncomfortale about their prefference. This book taught the lesson of being comfortable with your sexuality.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mike desmarais
Hardly could i expect more from this book when i started reading it, my friends gave it to me as a gift with his highest recommendation. It lived up to almost every expectation except for length. Exceedingly sensual but without pathos that one would find in the vast majority of romantic stories. Book is moving though tragic and deep; besides it's very well written and stylishly employs French at times.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
laurie devine
Picked up the book in a shop in Paris. Did not know or care what the race of the author was. The conflicts that he illustrated in the book, the disappointments and the frustrations, they were all mine. This is the best book of its genre I have ever read, and I recommend it for anyone who feels internal bigotry and self-loathing.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
doug park
It moved me beyond belief and I could not set it down. When I was finally forced to I could not wait to find out what might happen next. I give enormous tribute to Mr. Baldwin for such an amazing story that grabbed my heart and still wont let go. (The first book I've EVER read as an 18-year-old male)
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jennifer doyle
It was just so beautiful. Incredaibly moving and emotional. Like Romeo and Juliet, right from the start you are told it's a tragdey, but that didn't stop me from going through the book hoping that it wouldn't be.
When I reached the end, I just sat there motionless. That was how deep the impression was.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
katy johnson
I read this book as a course requirement for the University. An amazing move... As soon as I started reading this book I got involved with it emotionally. The book is so well written, with such passion that my deepest emotions were touched by it. Right now its my favorite book, I'm simply breathtaken by its stunning content!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
will van heerden
I had never read any of Baldwin's books before, and when I friend recommended this one to me, I hesitated. But Baldwin's language and the intensity of his story just caputured me. I highly recommend this book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sarah h
Giovanni's Room was an excellent book about how society affects peoples lives. It tells the horrific tale of a man unsure of his sexual orientation and what he thinks is normal and not. Daivd isn't sure whether he should conform to society's standards or follow his heart. It a great story of the gradually deterioration of the human soul. Read It!
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
cheryl blair
I had to read this book for class, otherwise I would have thrown it in the trash. People pay money for this?
Sure, Baldwin can write, but I feel like I need a shower after Giovanni's Room. It's not the sex; there is hardly any in the book. It's the depravity.
People hate themselves, hate others, try to drink it away and then go home to a nasty room where no one cleans. Lovely.
I feel like I did after watching Pulp Fiction or the Deer Hunter. I kept waiting for some redeeming character to step forward to pull this creepy book out of the muck.
If you feel like hating yourself, or want a taste of suicidal tendencies, read this book.
Yeah, he's good writer, but please.
Please Rate Giovanni's Room
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