One of my reading goals this year was to read some of James Baldwin’s fiction. Giovanni’s Room is my first of his fiction book. Baldwin is an incredible writer. I have appreciated his non-fiction writing for its clarity and intelligence and passion. Baldwin’s fiction writing is lyrically beautiful. I will definitely read more, but the actual characters and story in Giovanni’s Room were not my cup of tea.
The protagonist, David, is nearly 30. He is living in Paris without much direction or purpose. The book is told skipping around in time, so we know from nearly the beginning that Giovanni is to be executed, but the reader does not know why until near the end of the book.
David gives some back story with an early gay sexual experience and his family that he is escaping from to Paris. Soon we are introduced to Hella, David’s girlfriend. When the main story really starts, she is visiting Spain to decide if she wants to marry David. While she is gone, David runs short of money and while trying to borrow money from an older gay man, Jacque. During that meeting David meets Giovanni. Jacque tries to uses David to help him pick up Giovanni, but David and Giovanni hit it off and before long they are living together. David and Giovanni appear to be happy for a while. Giovanni has a decent job as a bartender and David for a while is happy to live with Giovanni.
(Spoiler alert for the rest of the discussion)