Giovanni’s Room is set in 1950’s Paris, and is narrated by David, a young American grappling with his sexuality and his life’s direction. At the start of the book, David meets Giovanni, a charismatic bartender from Italy. Throughout the novel, their new relationship is tested by David’s uncertainty and Giovanni’s emotional instability.
“The island of the city widened away from us, bearing the weight of the cathedral; beyond this, dimly, through speed and mist, one made out the individual roofs of Paris, their myriad, squat chimney stacks very beautiful and varicolored under the pearly sky. Mist clung to the river, softening that army of trees, softening those stones, hiding the city’s dreadful corkscrew alleys and dead-end streets, clinging like a curse to the men who slept beneath the bridges — one of whom flashed by beneath us, very black and lone, walking along the river.”
James Baldwin (1924-1987) was born in Harlem, New York. He was an author, poet, and social critic, and his best-known works are Go Tell it on the Mountain and Giovanni’s Room. For a time during his teenage years he was a Pentecostal preacher, and in 1948 he left for France, where he spent most of his later life.
Length: 169 pages
Set in: Paris, France
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