More than a year before Random House published The Godfather
Returns in hardcover I started hearing mumblings about it in the trade press, but I didn't give it much thought, assuming it to be yet
another attempt to extend the franchise of a dead author (Mario Puzo died in
1999 at the age of 79). However, the 'buzz' kept building with the
indications being that Winegardner was not only living up to Puzo's book and
screenplays but (some reviewers even dared to imply that) he might have improved
Winegardner has some advantages that Puzo did not. Firstly, most, if not all, of the real life characters that Puzo hinted at are now dead, which means that whereas Puzo could only hint at similarities between Johnny Fontane and Frank Sinatra, Winegardner can name names. Also, now that the Kennedy legend is less overpowering, Winegardner has been able to flesh out the Shea family as more Kennedy like than Puzo was able to do.
The Godfather Returns is essentially a sequel to Puzo's novel, The Godfather, which was written in 1969 and covers the years 1945 to 1954. As such it fills the chronological gap between where the novel ends and where the movie, The Godfather II starts (1958-1959). In fact it overlaps with the years covered in the movie, This was challenging for Winegardner who had to remain true to the book without contradicting the movie. Francis Ford Coppola's, The Godfather III, covers 1979-1980, which would appear to leave Winegardner with an opening for a second book covering the remaining missing years.
More than a dozen reviewers have pitched in to praise this book but as always, you don't have to take their word for it; instead browse a substantial excerpt for yourself and read the Q&A with Winegardner, which will arm you with all you need to hold your own around the water-cooler, whether you choose to read the book or not!
This review is from the September 1, 2005 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.
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