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Publisher's Summary

Set in the 1950’s 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.

©1956 James Baldwin (P)2013 AudioGO

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Baldwin: sensational. Butler: great. One caveat.

I'd never read any Baldwin and it was high time to fill in the gap. I think "Giovanni's Room" is a good way to get to know this extraordinary author. The writing is filled with beauty, the characters are potent and alive, and Baldwin's ability to evoke time and place (cities, seasons, an entire era) is masterful. The tone is unrelievedly elegiac; the sad ending is announced at the very beginning, and there is precious little joy in the narrative. Every character is at some kind of impasse. But Baldwin describes everyone with such vivid detail that their dead-ends blaze in Technicolor.
Dan Butler is a fine actor, and he doesn't fight the dolefulness of the book. He lives it. He has good timing, he finds non-stagy ways to evoke the characters, and he turns Baldwin's novel into a subtle, powerful monologue. He has variety and soul.
What's the catch? Something that could have been avoided, alas. There is a lot of French in this book--most of it takes place in Paris, some in the south of France--and Butler has no idea how to pronounce the many, many French phrases. It's not merely that he has an American accent. Sometimes I simply could not figure out what he was saying at all. He's such a believable, sympathetic reader. I wish he'd taken the time to coach the French and get it right. He doesn't even pronounce the title character's name correctly; sometimes he gets the name "Guillaume" right but in the next paragraph he'll call the man "Zhee-yome." Etc. For me, a distraction and an irritation. For another reader, perhaps less of an issue.
"Giovanni's Room" is shortish--a manageable length, and I think a beautiful entry into the world of James Baldwin. I am ready for more.

141 of 143 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

The Six Hours and Some Minutes Best I Have Spent.

When I realized, I was gay in 1967 at a very early age... I went to the library's card catalog in St. Paul, Minnesota and searched the catalog under the term homosexuality. I found this book but I was too young and too scared to read it. That has nagged me all these yards that I didn't.

I think it would have been scared out of my mind... This book was ever so sad... And the struggles of these characters I identified with both the younger characters and saw many parallels with my own. Many think, the times that these characters lived in are well pass. Sadly, they aren't. Our times present individuals the same shame, guilt, and pain....

Great read.

47 of 48 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Darwin8u
  • Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 09-23-17

People are too various to be treated so lightly

"for nothing is more unbearable, once one has it, than freedom."
- James Baldwin, Giovanni's Room

Baldwin is everything. He ability to articulate the struggle to be a man in a world where both black men and gay men were considered 2nd class (if lucky) citizens taught me. He is the reason I read (or at least one of the reasons) good fiction. It transports me into the experience of the other. His writing is a gift. The emotions of this novel are expressed as if Baldwin's heart was set aflame in Paris. In Giovanni's room, Baldwin carves his pain and his struggle with fire into the oppressive clouds of the Parisian night. I sort of knew what I was wading into reading Giovanni's Room. I knew Baldwin was gay and this was considered both a great novel AND a great piece of gay fiction. It is hard to imagine, however, Baldwin ever wanting to be dropped into ANY corner, locked into any room. Black. Gay. Saint. Yes, the man was certainly all those, but he was also so much more.

I don't want to come across as presumptuous, but I think Baldwin would reject the idea that this is a gay novel. I think Baldwin is expressing the anguish and the pain felt by ALL those who are denied (for whatever reason) the ability to freely love. The closet is far too dark, far too cold, far too confining, and does not allow for the other. Baldwin is teaching that we NEED the other to be human. Baldwin's novels are essentially that. They transcend race, sexuality, gender. They are about the need to be recognized, loved, and free. It reminds me, someone who has been prodigiously privileged because of my race (white), sexuality (straight), gender (cis) about the pain others go through just to catch a moment of things I take for granted every day.

59 of 63 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Great story, mediocre performance

Tragically beautiful story. James Baldwin is a master storyteller. The narrator was good except for his French - which was awful.

19 of 20 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Sub par performance for a Baldwin masterpiece.

The least they could do is find a narrator who can pronounce 'Giovanni' and basic French. And if you can't find that, the least the narrator could do is make his mistakes consistently. Pronunciation wasn't his only problem.

If I hadn't already read this book I probably wouldn't have finished listening.

28 of 30 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Sold on this one

Any additional comments?

This book was amazing, the reading was amazing. I couldn't get it out of my head for weeks. Download, listen, do whatever you have to do to get into this book.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Coming out. Quick and easy.

This was a very nice book nothing earth shatteringly amazing happened but there was great character development and a story that made me invested. A quick and easy page turner.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Great Baldwin, weak narration

For such a powerful and well-known book that takes place in France, I am surprised that the chosen narrator mispronounced so many French idioms, place names, and ordinary words. HIs voice didn't have the resonance and gravity nor the facility with various characters' tones and pronunciations as the narrators of Another Country and Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone. The book is gripping, deeply philosophical, and exquisitely expressed in print. Despite my misgivings about the narrator, I couldn't stop listening to Baldwin's story of love, hate, and loss.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Slow, heartbreaking, and worthwhile

This isn't a page turner. And yet, you find yourself diving so tragically into the psychology of a young man lost and confused in his myriad of identities as he wanders through Paris. In a sickening way, you can't help but want to find out what happens to this young man and the many he befriends on his quest to find himself in Paris. The story moves slowly, and it's narrated through the confused headspace of an angsty young man, but it so beautifully captured the plight of a gay man, and the contradictions that riddle the life of young Americans trying to find themselves in all the wrong ways. This is a heartbreaking tale, it is a brilliant tale, and it is more than worth your time.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

French needs work

This story is overall pretty gripping and very enjoyable. However the choice of a narrator who cannot speak French in the context of this book, set in Paris, and which contains quite a lot of French dialogue and names, which he mispronounces horribly, really takes something away from the listening experience. It's a shame; it is otherwise good.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful