Published in 1969 and adapted for the big screen in 1972, The Godfather tells of the conflict between the Corleone ‘Family’ and the other mafia families in New York. Along the way, you learn about the structure of a Mafia ‘Family’, and the origins of the Mafia in Sicily.
Puzo evokes the United States of the 1940s, moving effortlessly between New York City, Hollywood and Las Vegas, with a brief stop in Sicily. The locations and people are so well described that you could imagine yourself there with them. He had never been to Sicily, and yet he describes the island and its people with the clarity of a native. Either he had an incredible imagination, or he spent a lot of time talking to people who had lived there.
Puzo brings out the history of the various members of the Corleone ‘Family’, from central characters like Don Corleone to minor characters like Luca Brasi and Albert Neri. Yes, there is violence in the book, sometimes graphically described, but it is always appropriate to the situation and the people involved. Yes, there is sex, but never unnecessarily graphic or inappropriate.
The Godfather is regarded as a modern classic, and rightly so. It doesn’t matter if you read the book before seeing the film, or vice versa. The film was a good adaptation, but there are sufficient differences for the book not to disappoint if you watched the film first.