Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
(Penguin Modern Classics)

72%

5 Critic Reviews

James Baldwin captures the terror and the fear, but also the joy and the amazement of being gay in Giovanni's Room. Frank and urgent, the narrative voice casts a strange spell over the reader.
-Guardian

Synopsis

James Baldwin’s groundbreaking novel about love and the fear of love is set among the bohemian bars and nightclubs of 1950s Paris.

David is a young American expatriate who has just proposed marriage to his girlfriend, Hella. While she is away on a trip, David meets a bartender named Giovanni to whom he is drawn in spite of himself. Soon the two are spending the night in Giovanni’s curtainless room, which he keeps dark to protect their privacy. But Hella’s return to Paris brings the affair to a crisis, one that rapidly spirals into tragedy. Caught between his repressed desires and conventional morality, David struggles for self-knowledge during one long, dark night—“the night which is leading me to the most terrible morning of my life.” With sharp, probing insight, Giovanni's Room tells an impassioned, deeply moving story that lays bare the unspoken complexities of the human heart. 

Introduction by Colm Tóibín

 

About James Baldwin

See more books from this Author
James Baldwin was born on August 2, 1924, in New York. Baldwin's father was a pastor who subjected his children to poverty, abuse, and religious fanaticism. As a result, many of Baldwin's recurring themes, such as alienation and rejection, are attributable to his upbringing. Living the life of a starving artist, Baldwin went through numerous jobs, including dishwasher, office boy, factory worker, and waiter. In 1948, he moved to France, where much work originated. Baldwin published Go Tell It on the Mountain in 1953. A largely autobiographical work, it tells of the religious awakening of a fourteen-year-old. In addition to his childhood experiences, his experiences as a black man and a homosexual provided inspiration for such works as Giovanni's Room, Nobody Knows My Name, and Another Country. Baldwin holds a distinguished place in American history as one of the foremost writers of both black and gay literature. He was an active participant in the Civil Rights movement. Baldwin succumbed to cancer on December 1, 1987.
 
Published June 1, 1940 by Doubleday Books. 254 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Gay & Lesbian, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Political & Social Sciences, History, Erotica. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Giovanni's Room
All: 5 | Positive: 5 | Negative: 0

Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Jackie Kay on Jan 17 2009

James Baldwin captures the terror and the fear, but also the joy and the amazement of being gay in Giovanni's Room. Frank and urgent, the narrative voice casts a strange spell over the reader.

Read Full Review of Giovanni's Room (Penguin Mode... | See more reviews from Guardian

NPR

Good
Reviewed by Chris Abani on Dec 28 2013

Giovanni's Room was a mesmerizing book for a young seminarian — a fantasy of forbidden bars and a homosexuality that was taboo to even talk about, to acknowledge...

Read Full Review of Giovanni's Room (Penguin Mode... | See more reviews from NPR

Lit Reactor

Above average
Reviewed by Ed Sikov on May 20 2012

Still, it’s both elegant and raw, romantic and honest - one of Baldwin’s greatest achievements. And despite its depressing ending, it still managed to give ‘50s gay readers hope, if only because it affirmed our existence on the planet.

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Philly.com

Above average
on Jun 20 2006

This gay classic is 50 years old. In these days of out and proud people from all walks of life, what a difference half a century makes. It's almost impossible to fathom that at a time when much gay fiction was written under pseudonyms...

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Critical Mob

Above average

Love does not conquer all in James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room, a groundbreaking contribution to gay literature that shocked literati with its portrayal of an American expatriate, David, who falls for an Italian bartender named Giovanni.

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Reader Rating for Giovanni's Room
87%

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Erin

Erin 5 Sep 2013

Added the book to want to read list