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#FoylesFave: Giovanni's Room

8th July 2017 - Charlotte Pope

#FoylesFave: Giovanni's Room

Our Bristol bookseller Charlotte recommends Giovanni's Room.

 

Giovanni's RoomAmerican expatriate David has spent his whole life running, desperate to repress his desires for other men. Raised by a father preoccupied with manliness, David has constantly strived to be something he's not. In an effort to settle down and quash his feelings, he has just proposed marriage to his girlfriend, Hella. She departs to Spain to decide her answer: in her absence David meets and falls in love with a young Italian man, Giovanni.

 

In 1950s Paris, the two embark on a passionate and intense affair, the world inside Giovanni's room becoming a retreat from the frightening and prejudiced world around them. Giovanni's room becomes an island in the chaos, a sanctuary where they can be themselves without reprisals or rejection. Then Hella returns to Paris, and David's paradise is shattered. He becomes wracked with shame and in a panic, pushes Giovanni away. David is convinced that two men like them can never make a life together, and leaves Giovanni's room: it is the beginning of Giovanni's downfall.

 

First published in 1956, this is a masterpiece of LGBT fiction. Baldwin's words are like poetry on the page, so sparing and yet conveying so much. A stunning work of literature and one of my desert island books.

 

 

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James Baldwin; Caryl Phillips
 
 
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