Giovanni’s Room

James Baldwin

It started when I left Murakami’s A Wild Sheep Chase at home, after only reading a few pages. And then I left this one at Steve’s house with only 10–15 minutes of reading to go in the story. I could have read this in one day!

It’s such a tragic novella: an American in Paris in love with a girl named Hella who is not sure if she wants to commit to him and departs to think in Spain. In the meantime he falls for Giovanni and they have a sweet affair until Hella returns. The American leaves Giovanni, leading to an event that sends Giovanni to the guillotine.

Despite its brevity, the book manages to be rather rich in imagery (which is often hard to do in a concise manner) and beautiful in its sadness. I found it virtually impossible to be sympathetic to the American partially because his name (David) just doesn’t sound right to me, and it’s easier to call him “The American.”