David, after moving to Paris and falling in love with an American woman, finds himself struggling with his sexuality when he finds himself attracted to the bartender, Giovanni.
Why this book?: Queer lit class at my local college. So far, the novels that have been chosen for this class weren’t the best. Here’s hoping that this one is better!
I wasn’t expecting much when I went in, and I have to say that I wasn’t disappointed. But I also wasn’t impressed either.
One of my closest friends loves James Baldwin, because of his life and his history (I think she’s going to study African American History when she hits the road to college!) but I was really unhappy when I had to go back to her and tell her that the one book by someone she loved that I read wasn’t all that good.
David, the protagonist, was one of the most insufferable narrators I know, and I’ve run into more than a few. He was self-obsessed, and didn’t care about others or how they felt. He only cared about his actions and what other people’s actions can do to his life. When it came to his love-life, he was also a huge pile of shit. He was knowingly in a relationship with this girl who had gone off to Spain, and what does he do? Hit it off with Giovanni, and get into another serious relationship. David was literally planning to marry this girl, and he goes and cheats on her?
And don’t even get me started on Giovanni. He wasn’t self-obsessed like David was, no. He was obsessed with David and the fact that this seemingly okay person was in love with this trashbin of a person was infuriating. Giovanni also spouted extremely toxic behavior, such as threatening to kill himself when David voices the possibility of him leaving for the girl when she gets back.
I will be honest and say that while I hated every single one of the characters, I was still interested in the story. I wanted to know what would happen, what next self-obsessed thing David would do. But despite being interesting, it was also boring. Nothing happened until the very end, but I don’t want to spoil what will happen, so I’ll keep quite.
Baldwin’s writing was very lyrical and poetic, but it made the story almost impossible to read. I was constantly dozing off while reading, and I almost didn’t finish this one despite needing it for a class.
Final Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Loved the writing, and where the story seemed to be going, but practically hated everything else. I hated how toxic every single character was, especially Giovanni and David. I also wasn’t such a big fan of how David’s girlfriend was constantly spouting about wanting to be a wife and to be “a women” because apparently she wasn’t a woman if she was independent from a man?
Would I Recommend?
Maybe if you’re looking for historical LGBTQIAP+ novels, because it is interesting to see how the community has changed. But, jeez, was this toxic.
Publisher: Dial Press
Page Count: 176
Synopsis: via Goodreads
Set in the 1950s Paris of American expatriates, liaisons, and violence, a young man finds himself caught between desire and conventional morality. With a sharp, probing imagination, James Baldwin’s now-classic narrative delves into the mystery of loving and creates a moving, highly controversial story of death and passion that reveals the unspoken complexities of the human heart.