Giovanni's Room

  • by James Baldwin
  • Narrated by Dan Butler
  • 6 hrs and 49 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Set in the 1950’s Paris of American expatriates, liaisons, and violence, a young man finds himself caught between desire and conventional morality. With a sharp, probing imagination, James Baldwin’s now-classic narrative delves into the mystery of loving and creates a moving, highly controversial story of death and passion that reveals the unspoken complexities of the human heart.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Baldwin: sensational. Butler: great. One caveat.

I'd never read any Baldwin and it was high time to fill in the gap. I think "Giovanni's Room" is a good way to get to know this extraordinary author. The writing is filled with beauty, the characters are potent and alive, and Baldwin's ability to evoke time and place (cities, seasons, an entire era) is masterful. The tone is unrelievedly elegiac; the sad ending is announced at the very beginning, and there is precious little joy in the narrative. Every character is at some kind of impasse. But Baldwin describes everyone with such vivid detail that their dead-ends blaze in Technicolor.
Dan Butler is a fine actor, and he doesn't fight the dolefulness of the book. He lives it. He has good timing, he finds non-stagy ways to evoke the characters, and he turns Baldwin's novel into a subtle, powerful monologue. He has variety and soul.
What's the catch? Something that could have been avoided, alas. There is a lot of French in this book--most of it takes place in Paris, some in the south of France--and Butler has no idea how to pronounce the many, many French phrases. It's not merely that he has an American accent. Sometimes I simply could not figure out what he was saying at all. He's such a believable, sympathetic reader. I wish he'd taken the time to coach the French and get it right. He doesn't even pronounce the title character's name correctly; sometimes he gets the name "Guillaume" right but in the next paragraph he'll call the man "Zhee-yome." Etc. For me, a distraction and an irritation. For another reader, perhaps less of an issue.
"Giovanni's Room" is shortish--a manageable length, and I think a beautiful entry into the world of James Baldwin. I am ready for more.
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- Music Man

Narrator's Poor French Ruins This Book

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

A reader who could read the French names, places and frequent French phrases!
This is a beautiful story, set in Paris and populated significantly by French characters and French speakers. It is a crime that the narrator cannot pronounce the French. This is worse than merely distracting; it destroys an essential part of the book.


What didn’t you like about Dan Butler’s performance?

He butchers the French names and phrases. It is often incomprehensible due to his poor pronunciation.


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- Kim

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-01-2013
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.