Everyone loves a good revenge tale. It satisfies a basic wish fulfillment instinct that's in all of us, and there's a sense of instant gratification that hits you when you reach the point where the tables are turned, gradually but permanently, and then all the pieces fall into place and heads start to roll. This alone is why I like revenge literature, and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in my appreciation for literary karmic retribution.
There are so many types of revenge literature that would fit anyone's unique taste. There's artful vengeance (anything by Alexandre Dumas), there's poetic vengeance (Les Miserables), there's humorous vengeance (The Princess Bride), there's crazy vengeance (Medea, Moby Dick), there's dirty vengeance (anything by Frank Miller), there's monster vengeance (Frankenstein), there's "let's get on with it" vengeance (The Scarlet Letter), there's "just kill him already" vengeance (Hamlet), there's "wtf did I just read" vengeance (Gone Girl), there's "I don't think this qualifies as vengeance" vengeance (The Thorn Birds), and then there's bloody vengeance, what this book is, literally.
There isn't that much left to say about the Godfather saga that hasn't been said before. So this is not so much a review, more of a series of my impressions and reflections.
Mario Puzo is a product of his time, and it shows in his writing. Early on in the story, I was most surprised by his casual use of the words "Guinea" and "primitive" to describe things that were old-fashioned or from the "old country" (of Sicily). But since he's Italian himself, it's okay? So they say, though I'm not so sure. Also, there are a couple of snide remarks about the "Negro problem" in and around New York. Just a warning for those who might want to avoid "products of their time" authors.
As with all period pieces, this book captures the social tensions and dynamics of post-WWII New York adjusting to new waves of immigrants. There's a feeling of going back in time in these pages. The dialogue is reminiscent of those movies from the '40s, so is the fashion and corrupt law enforcement, and also the misogyny. But...products of their time, remember? Fine, whatever. Just know that it's there, in heaping amounts.
What sets the Corleones' story apart from other first generation Italian immigrant stories is Puzo's focus on the family's Sicilian background, which should never be confused with or grouped into the general Italian diaspora experience. Sicilians are often discriminated against, even amongst Italians, and so they stick together, form their own exclusive communities, and are weary of non-Sicilians, especially law enforcement. Like all peoples who come from lands constantly under siege, Sicilians responded by forming their own support systems and following their own code of conduct, beliefs and directions foreign to non-Sicilians.
All in all, this book was a surprisingly engaging read for me, huge flaws and plot holes and all. I don't usually read crime dramas and I tend to stay away from "products of their time" writers, but there's something about Puzo's easy storytelling style narrative that drew me in.