three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
14-Jan-Feb-2005
user_rating: 
0

A-GodfatherReturnsMore than thirty years ago, Mario Puzo’s great pulp tale The Godfather altered American pop culture forever. The Godfather Returns continues the classic mob saga, filling in the gaps left by Puzo’s book and Francis Ford Coppola’s stunning films. This sequel, set in New York, Las Vegas, and Cuba between the 1950s and early 1960s, once again stars Michel Corleone. He’s attempting to shed his father’s legacy, avenge past betrayals, consolidate power, and legitimize the family’s business. This time, new character Nick Geraci engages Michael in a deadly game as the usual sex, crime, and murder form a violent, bloody backdrop to intense power plays and multiple subplots. Can the family save itself—and its power?
Random House. 448 pages. $26.95.
ISBN: 1400061016

Cleveland Plain Dealer 4 of 5 Stars
"While it lacks the emotional punch of the original Godfather story, it is in most regards a better novel than The Godfather, lending depth, shade and nuance while remaining true to Puzo’s narrative format and style. … That is one measure of this sequel’s success: Its characters, situations and story lines feel like true extensions of the original." David Walton

Minneapolis Star Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"Winegardner fills in the gaps left in Coppola’s trilogy and adeptly brings minor characters to the fore, creating a revisionist history of both the Corleone family and Cold War politics. … Instead of being handcuffed by the limitations inherent in such a project, [Winegardner] has made the story his own, much the same way Coppola did." Martin Schmutterer

St. Petersburg Times 4 of 5 Stars
"By keeping his focus on the same compelling American myth of families, fortune and crime that Puzo and Coppola tapped into, Winegardner fleshes out the saga in a way that would make his predecessors proud. … Winegardner also has a deft touch with the kind of big, operatic set pieces that stand out in the Godfather movies, notably an initiation scene in a Las Vegas hotel and several gruesome murders." Colette Bancroft

New York Times 2 of 5 Stars
"Mr. Winegardner shies away from the potboiler element, his descriptions more dutiful than richly imagined. … The Godfather Returns makes you realize just how crucial Al Pacino—or, rather, his uncanny ability to grow troubled and careworn right there on the screen—was to the success of the Godfather saga." Charles McGrath

NY Times Book Review 2 of 5 Stars
"The results, not surprisingly, taste a lot like a meal made from leftovers .... Mr. Winegardner shows us little internal conflict in Michael’s soul (the sort of conflict Al Pacino could covey with a single look, a single pause or hesitation), and his efforts to depict the emotional price of Michael’s choices are obvious and heavy-handed, too." Michiko Kakutani

Newsday 1.5 of 5 Stars
"The Godfather Returns is essentially a long, sleazy tabloid story in which the accumulation of detail does not add up to a vision. … [R]eading the book is like wading through grubby footnotes to a masterwork." Charles Taylor

Critical Summary

It’s a tough act to follow, but somebody had to do it. Writing The Godfather is a job worthy of "Don" Vito Corleone himself, yet the task fell to novelist Winegardner, head of the creative writing program at Florida State University. Critics rarely know what to make of a new author taking over a classic work, and The Godfather Returns is no different. Some call this sequel brilliant, and praise Winegardner’s conscientious research, plot clarification, compelling new characters (like Francesca, one of Sonny’s twin daughters), and "panoramic and cinematic" writing (Minneapolis Star Tribune). Other critics argue that no author, Puzo or anyone else, can capture Al Pacino’s inner expression—this may be a case where the movie will forever trump the novel. Some even call the sequel bland, visionless, and undramatic. Since it’s the Corleones, expect the usual pulp thrills.