It is almost fifty years since Mario Puzo’s classic tale of a fictional New York crime family hit bookstores, and it remains as popular today as it was then. It’s not hard to see why. Early in the story we are brought to a wedding scene. The bride is Connie Corleone, daughter of the crafty and feared old mob boss, Vito. Here at the wedding we are introduced to the main characters, including Connie’s brothers: Sonny, Fredo and Michael. We are also introduced to the nature of the family business as Vito conducts a series of meetings in his office. Sonny, who is being groomed to succeed his father, is asked to attend these meetings, but arrives late due to committing adultery in a bathroom with one of the bridesmaids, Lucy Mancini. Lucy was drawn to Sonny in part after hearing reports of his enormous penis. Here Puzo extensively details the stature and renown of Sonny’s penis. Michael is attending the wedding with his girlfriend, Kay, and explains to her about his father’s business, and how he wants no part in it.
As the story progresses, we see tensions rising between rival crime families. An attempt is made on Vito’s life, but he survives. Sonny, despite his huge penis and efforts by the family consigliere to calm him, is furious. Another attempt is made on Vito’s life, this time while he lies recovering in hospital, but a quick thinking Michael thwarts the attempt. The Corleone boys plan revenge. In a hit orchestrated and ultimately carried out by Michael, three of Vito’s enemies are eliminated. Through these events we begin to see Michael has inherited both his father’s cunning and ruthlessness. Michael is then sent to Cicily to avoid arrest. Sonny, the one with the massive penis, informs Vito that it was Michael who killed the three men.
Time passes and Vito recovers. Sonny is ambushed by a competing family and killed. His body is riddled with bullets, many of which, no doubt, would have struck him in the penis. Michael later returns to America, and begins balancing a dual life. To his wife and the public, he is an upstanding citizen, but all the while he is taking over the family business from his father. Coolly and calmly, Michael has his family’s enemies killed off, until the Corleone’s respect and dominance are restored.
The book explores several themes, the most intriguing of which, to me, is that of lost dreams—the story is infused throughout with tragedy. The Corleone’s family business brings them power and wealth, but it also destroys what is dear to them. Vito loses his dream of seeing Michael become an honest man of good repute. Sonny loses his dream of being head of the family. Lucy loses her dream of being with Sonny. Connie loses her husband. Michael loses the carefree and trusting relationship he shared with Kay. Crime pays for the Corleones, but it also incurs a cost.
The Godfather is more than just a gangster novel; it is a compelling saga of crime, loyalty, loss of bowel control during strangulation, and a big penis. 8/10
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