As with the last book I reviewed here, I was in a state where I couldn't deal with anything new. I've read The Godfather several times. The first time I was in 5th grade--a strange recommendation from my father, but whatever. It's an excellent read, if not deeply misogynistic. I'm trying not to overdo adverbs, but the word "deeply" is entirely necessary. Entirely.
I'll get into that more in a sec, but first I should say that I mean it--The Godfather is an addictive read. The male characters are compelling and even likable--for sexists and killers. The female characters--I think there are three that get any narration--are okay, too. I'd love to see a Wind Done Gone type take on The Godfather, told from the point of view of Connie or Mama Corleone.
Some of the more women-are-nothing passages in the book:
Corleone family consiglieri Tom Hagen is returned from being kidnapped and nearly killed.
As he watched, Tom Hagen disentangled himself from his wife's arms and lowered her back onto the sofa. He smiled at Michael grimly. "Glad to see you, Mike, really glad." He strode into the office without another look at his still-sobbing wife. He hadn't lived with the Corleone Family ten years for nothing, Michael thought with a queer flush of pride. Some of the old man had rubbed off on him, as it had on Sonny, and he thought, with surprise, even on himself.
Some might try to make the argument that Puzo is drawing attention to sexism (and racism--tons of passages on Negros being subhuman), rather than championing it, but it's the "queer flush of pride" and comparison to the admired family patriarch that makes me think Puzo is a fan. My theory is buttressed by Puzo having the patriarch/Godfather die "surrounded by men," "spared the sight of women's tears, dying before they came back from church" where, incidentally, his wife went every day, explicitly to pray for her husband's soul.
There's also a mysterious passage where the wife of a serial adulterer is somehow deemed more culpable for her husband's cheating and their failed marriage than the husband.
And though the outside world of gossip columnists and movie fans fave the blame for the failure of their marriage solely to him, yet in a curious way, between the two of them, they both knew that she was even more to blame for their divorce.
When Johnny Fontane became the most popular singer and musical comedy star in motion pictures, it had never occurred to him to desert his wife and children. He was too Italian, still too old-style. Naturally he had been unfaithful. That had been impossible to avoid in his business and the temptations to with he was continually exposed.
"Naturally." "Impossible to avoid." And somehow Ginny is to blame...? And later vilified for taking a modicum satisfaction--for just a flash--in Johnny losing the key to sex appeal?
Later a doctor proposes marriage to his girlfriend whose vagina he has facilitated surgically tightening (for valid medical reasons).
Lucy found a surprise waiting: a gourmet supper and next to her champagne glass, a jeweler's box with a huge diamond engagement ring inside it.
"That shows you how much confidence I have in my [surgeon friend's] work," Jules said. "Now let's see you earn it."
This one I doubt Puzo, writing in the late 1960s, would have realized people would interpret as sexist, but I have a problem with someone having to "earn" their engagement ring in any way, including through giving sex, no matter how much they enjoy it. I also have a problem with Jules's confident in Lucy's vagina being repaired being the condition upon which he will marry her. Jules, not a mobster himself, but a young surgeon whose brilliant career was destroyed when he broke the law to perform abortions (cool with that), is as arrogant and self-important, maybe even more so, than most of the other pezzonovantes in the book. He admits to, as a surgeon, basically being God and talks down to everyone around him, including Lucy, who he calls dumb, ignorant, and country.
I could pull out other examples of misogyny, but I don't want you to discourage you from reading The Godfather. It's such a page-turner, if you can tolerate how utterly despicable it is, which could well be the conscious or unconscious point.