Rating: 5 / 5
GIOVANNI’S ROOM by James Baldwin was the #ClassicsBuddyRead pick for June. While I had heard of the author, I had not read him before and this wasn’t a book that I was familiar with, so I went in not knowing much.
GIOVANNI’S ROOM follows David, a young man who has left the U.S. to go to Paris to find himself. It is the 1950s and Europe is still in recovery following the war. It is a place full of expatriates like himself, a place where David can be more free, leaving his life and his expectations of what life should be (a wife, a job, a family) for living day to day. He meets a young woman and proposes to her, but while engaged he meets an Italian bartender named Giovanni. He feels torn between life’s expectations and his own passions.
This book really drew me in from the start – Baldwin’s writing is just that amazing. He really brings to the forefront David’s mixed feelings of love and passion with guilt as he tries to work within societal pressures. Giovanni’s room is a place of freedom where he can attempt to really be himself, but it is still a confining space if he can’t be himself in the wider world.
This is a relatively short novel, but the author really brings so much into the story. While I didn’t always like David and some of the decisions he was making, I could feel his struggles and his own self doubts about what he was doing.
I will absolutely be looking to pick up more novels by James Baldwin as I loved this book and have only heard good things about his other works! This is a book I am very glad we picked up for the buddy read last month!