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Princess Academy: Palace of Stone

Princess Academy: Palace of Stone

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Princess Academy: Palace of Stone

4.5/5 (70 valutazioni)
297 pagine
4 ore
Aug 21, 2012


A New York Times Bestseller

In this second book in New York Times bestselling, Newbery Honor-winning author Shannon Hale's Princess Academy series, Miri embarks on a brand new life in the city.

Coming down from the mountain to a new city life is a thrill to Miri. She and her princess academy friends have come to Asland to help the future princess Britta prepare for her wedding. There, Miri also has a chance to attend school--at the prestigious Queen's Castle.

But as Miri befriends sophisticated and exciting students, she also learns that they have some frightening plans for a revolution. Torn between loyalty to the princess and her new friends' ideas, between an old love and a new crush, and between her small mountain home and the bustling city, Miri looks to find her own way in this new place.

Don't miss any of these other books from New York Times bestselling author Shannon Hale:

The Princess Academy trilogy
Princess Academy
Princess Academy: Palace of Stone
Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters

The Books of Bayern
The Goose Girl
Enna Burning
River Secrets
Forest Born

Book of a Thousand Days


Graphic Novels
with Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale
Rapunzel's Revenge
Calamity Jack

For Adults
Midnight in Austenland
The Actor and the Housewife
Aug 21, 2012

Informazioni sull'autore

Shannon Hale ("Bouncing the Grinning Goat") began writing at age ten—mostly fantasy stories where she was the heroine. She never stopped. She writes bestselling books for kids and adults and also writes graphic novels. Her book Princess Academy was named a Newbery Honor Book in 2006. Shannon lives with her family near Salt Lake City, Utah. 

Correlato a Princess Academy

Anteprima del libro

Princess Academy - Shannon Hale


Chapter One

The rock-lined road is the way to work

The rock-lined road takes the work away

The rock-lined road is the way to take

If you take that road away you’ll always take that way back home

Take you there and take you home, there’s nothing but the rocky road

Miri woke to the insistent bleat of a goat. She squeaked open one eye. Pale yellow sky slipped through the cracks in the shutters. It was day—the very day trade wagons might come to carry her off. She’d been expecting them all week with both a skipping heart and a falling stomach. Strange, lately, how many things made her feel two opposite ways twisted together.

Peder was like that.

Miri crept from her pea-shuck mattress to the window. A figure stood in the doorway of Peder’s house. She waved, Peder waved back, and those addled feelings popped inside, her chest light and excited, her head tight and unsure.

She felt two ways about home too, she realized, looking out at the few dozen houses of Mount Eskel, their roofs traced white with dawn light. Her mountain was big. The world was bigger.

A noise called her back. Her sister, Marda, was sitting up, and her pa too, stretching and groaning from the ache of sleep. For them she felt only one way. And for them she never wanted to leave.

Miri talked while she helped Marda stack the mattresses to clear the floor, and talked while she dished up breakfast, and talked while she led the goats from the adjoining room into the sharp light of morning. If she talked, she did not have to think. Thinking only made her stomach fall faster.

Peder’s grandpa says he’s seen more bees this fall than he can ever remember, and that means the winter won’t be too hard, but if it freezes and thaws all the time you’ll have ice everywhere, so I think we should dump more gravel on the path to the stream—

We’ll be all right, Miri. A goat pushed against Marda’s side, and Marda rubbed its ears. You don’t need to worry.

Pa was walking ahead of his girls. His back tensed against Marda’s words.

Pa …, Miri said. She wanted him to say that he would be all right without her.

They reached the quarry, a huge bowl of white stone, rectangles of rock jutting at odd angles. Already dozens of villagers were squaring blocks of linder stone they’d cut from the mountain and were hauling them out of the quarry. The nearest group worked one stone together, singing to keep in rhythm: Take you there and take you home, there’s nothing but the rocky road.

Pa halted at the edge. Expect us for lunch, Miri, so long as …

Miri finished his thought. So long as the wagons have not come.

Pa hefted his pickax and strode into the pit. Marda followed, turning to shrug at Miri. Miri shrugged back. They both knew their father’s temperament.

Miri tied her goats on a slope where they could graze, then skipped back down to the house. She picked up a letter from the table, as she had each morning since it arrived with the traders in the summer. The letter still seemed as magical as books had when she’d first learned to read.

She had the letter memorized, but she read it again anyway. It was from Katar, who had left Mount Eskel for the capital several months before.

Addressing Miri Larendaughter, Lady of the Princess, Mount Eskel


This is a letter. A letter is like talking to someone who is far away. Do not show the others in case I am doing it wrong.

This fall, extra wagons will go with the traders to bring to Asland any academy graduates who are willing. You are invited to stay one year. I know you, at least, will come. It is a long trip. Bring a blanket to sit on in the wagon or you will get a bruised backside.

At harvest, each province in Danland presents a gift to the king. As this is the first year Mount Eskel is a province, I want our gift to be really fine. I cannot think what we can offer besides linder. I do not think goats would be quite right. Please tell the village council that the linder must be special, perhaps a very large block of it. I do not sleep well with worry. I grow tired of the mocking way the other delegates speak of Mount Eskel.

I am anxious for you to come. There are things happening in Asland. I need advice, but it would be dangerous for me to write about it, I think. I hope it will not be too late by the time you arrive.

This letter is from Katar, Mount Eskel’s delegate to the royal court in Asland

Miri put the letter back on the table, held down by a shard of linder—white stone struck through with veins of silver. She could not guess what dangerous matters Katar wanted to discuss with her, but that had not kept her from trying to imagine all summer long. And summer had seemed very long indeed.

Miri picked up a second letter and could not help smiling as she read Britta’s looping handwriting.

Miri Larendaughter, Mount Eskel

Dearest Miri,

I am delighted to write to you! Though I would rather talk to you in person and sit as we used to do in the shade of the princess academy, watching hawks glide. At least I have good news to share. The king has invited the academy girls to come this autumn! Autumn is not near enough for impatient me, but it is closer than next spring.

I will brag just a little and claim credit. I made a very pretty argument that the mountain pass might still be stopped with snow in the spring and prevent you from arriving in time for the wedding. And how could the princess be married without the princess’s ladies?

You girls will room here at the palace. Palace seamstresses will make you dresses in the Aslandian style, so please do not fear on that account.

Also, I have wonderful news! There is an open spot for you at the Queen’s Castle, the university I told you about. Studies begin after harvest, so you see, another reason I am eager to have you here before spring.

More good news. A stone carver my father used to hire has agreed to take Peder into apprenticeship. Gus will house and feed Peder in exchange for a year’s labor and one block of linder.

There will be so much for us to do here. I can scarcely sleep sometimes for daydreaming! Let the summer fly on hot, swift wings.

Your friend,


Traders came up to Mount Eskel only once each spring, summer, and fall, so Miri had been unable to reply to either girl. She had no doubt Katar was going crazy with worry about their gift for the king. Miri could not wait to surprise her.

Miri ladled morning gruel into a pot and headed out the door. Peder had spent the past three months sweating over the gift. And since his family was short one quarry worker while he labored, the other village families supported Peder with meals. Today was Miri’s turn. While her pa and sister worked in the quarry, Miri kept the house and goats.

She ambled over the rock chippings that covered the ground to Peder’s house, knocking once and letting herself in.

Good morning, Peder, she began, stopping when she saw Peder’s father, Jons, standing with arms folded. The mood in the cottage had the bite of winter wind.

Peder slumped onto a stool. My father is reconsidering letting me go to Asland.

Not reconsidering, Jons said. Decided. You’ve already wasted three months carving this thing. Since your sister is leaving us, you’ll be staying.

For Peder, quarry work was mindless, endless. He’d been carving bits of linder into animals and people for years, yearning for a chance to do it more. Miri wanted to plead with Jons but checked herself, remembering the rules of Diplomacy she had learned at the princess academy.

I can understand, sir, why you want Peder to stay. He hasn’t worked in the quarry since the summer traders came. Besides, it would be hard on your family to lose both children for a year.

Just so, he said, squinting suspiciously. It’s impossible.

"I would agree, but in this case, sending Peder to Asland will be much more useful for your family and the village in the long run. As it is now, after the traders haul our stone down the mountain, artisans in Asland chip away half of it to make mantelpieces and tiles and such, and they earn a good living doing it."

Exactly! Peder said, standing up. Why shouldn’t we do that work here, ourselves? After I’m trained, traders could bring me orders in the fall, then I’d work through the winter and send the carvings down in spring.

Traders can haul twice as much finished stone as rough stone, said Miri, which would mean twice as much pay for everyone.

Jons narrowed his eyes further. Miri swallowed but asked the final question.

I know Peder will be diligent in his apprenticeship and do you proud. Will you let him go?

She held her breath. She could not hear Peder breathe. Jons turned to look out the window.

Fine, Jons said with a grunt. He paused to lay his hand on Peder’s head before leaving.

You’re amazing! Peder said, hugging Miri.

He took a step back and smiled as if he truly loved looking at her face. Then he started in on the breakfast.

Why doesn’t he ask? The thought was so well used it squeaked in Miri’s mind like dry hinges. She was of age to be betrothed. Peder seemed to like her and no one else. Yet he did not ask.

Afraid to look at him in case he could read her thoughts in her eyes, she leaned over the mantelpiece he’d been carving. She traced the images of Mount Eskel and the chain of mountains beyond, beautifully captured in linder.

It’s smoother, she said.

I’ve been polishing it.

An unmistakable sound reached them from outside. They rushed to the window to see the first in the line of trader wagons, crunching rock debris under metal-rimmed wheels.

Miri was holding Peder’s warm, callused hand. She did not know who had reached out first.

They ran to meet the wagons, along with most of the village. Trading began, families selling cut blocks of linder and purchasing foodstuffs and supplies from the wagons. In the past, trading day had been an anxious occasion, each family bartering for just enough food to avoid starvation. But since the previous year, when the villagers were first able to sell their linder at fair value, trading days had become festivals.

Children danced in excitement over ribbons and cloth, shoes and tools, bags of dried peas still in their shucks, barrels of honey and onions and salt fish. Such items had always seemed magical to Miri, evidence of fabulous, faraway places. How often she’d daydreamed of cities, farmlands, and endless ocean. Now at last she would go. But she did not feel like joining in the dance.

Peder caught up with his mother to help in the trading, and Miri sold her family’s stone. Then she went in search of her sister.

Please come, Marda, she said, panic tightening her throat. Marda was not an academy graduate, but she knew Britta would not mind, and the other girls adored Miri’s gentle sister. I thought I wanted to go, but I’m scared. I need you. Please.

You’re not scared, Marda said quietly. Or you won’t be for long.

Marda, I’m serious.

I’m not like you, Miri. Learning about all those places and past kings and wars, it makes me feel like … like I’m sleeping on a precipice. I don’t like that feeling. I want to stay home.


Pa and I both know you’ll be fine. So fine, in fact, he worries you won’t come back.

He does?

Marda nodded. So do I.

Miri shook her head. She could not imagine staying away forever by choice, but so much could happen in a year, so many obstacles to coming home. And what dangerous matters did Katar fear? Miri felt her chin start to quiver.

Marda rubbed Miri’s back and forced a confident smile. A few blinks and you’ll be back. A year’s a small thing.

Marda’s words reminded Miri of a line from a poem she’d read in one of the academy books, so she said, "No small thing, a bee’s sting, when it enters the heart."

A bee’s sting entered whose heart? asked Marda.

It’s just a poem. Never mind, Miri said. She should have known Marda would not understand, and that made her feel as lonely as if she were already gone.

Marda put her arm around Miri, tucking her head against her own. Miri noticed her sister had grown taller in the past year. She was older than most Mount Eskel girls who accepted a betrothal, yet no one had spoken for her. Once all the village boys were betrothed, no others would come rushing up from the lowlands to take their place. And Marda was too shy to speak for herself.

As soon as she returned from Asland, Miri decided, she would be matchmaker for her sister. And she’d keep teaching in the village school till every villager could read, including her pa. She felt better making plans like ropes securing her to her mountain.

The trading hurried along, culminating in the trading-day feast. Now it was a farewell feast.

Not all the graduates of the princess academy would be going. Some were kept back at their parents’ wishes; others had accepted betrothals and did not want to leave. Miri would travel with five girls: Gerti, Esa, Frid, Liana, and Bena. Each carried a burlap sack filled with her few possessions. Miri clutched her own sack to her chest. The summer had seemed endless, but now that this moment was upon her, it felt sudden and sharp, a hawk in a hunting dive.

I’ll write to you, she told Marda. Every week. And I’ll send the whole stack of letters with the spring traders. And the letters will all say the same thing—I miss you, and I’ll be home next fall. Home for good.

Marda just nodded.

Her father approached, his hands behind his back, his eyes on the ground. Miri stepped forward to meet him.

Don’t forget to butcher the rabbits come high winter, when the pelts are thickest, she said. It breaks Marda’s heart to do it, and if I’m gone …

He glanced at her and then away again, frowning into the chain of mountains: brown, purple, blue, and beyond, ghostly gray summits seemingly afloat above the clouds.

I will come back, Pa, she said.

I wonder, he said in his low voice. I wonder.

I promise.

He picked her up, pressing her to his chest as easily as if she were still a baby. How could an embrace make her feel exquisitely loved and yet heartbroken too?

I’ll always come home, Pa, she said.

But a shiver of uncertainty had entered her.

Miri sat in the back of a wagon as it drove away, her eyes taking in every last image of home: her house built of gray rubble rock, the white gleam of linder shards marking the paths, the jagged cliffs of the quarry, and the magnificent, white-tipped head of Mount Eskel.

She felt night-blind and afraid, as if walking a path that might lead to sheer cliff and empty air. The lowlands were so far away, she could hardly believe they existed. Once she was in the lowlands, would home seem like a dream too?

She glimpsed Pa and Marda one last time before the road bent and, quick as a sigh, the village was gone from sight.

Chapter Two

The city of the river

The city of the bay

The people of the limestone

The people of the clay

Miri’s jaw ached from gaping. First, there were the lowlander trees, their enormous leafy crowns still so vibrantly green it hurt her eyes. Next, farmlands stretched so far they curved with the world, green and golden. Then the wagons rolled onto actual streets, past wooden houses winking with glass windows. The roofs were made of thatch or tile with the occasional one of beaten copper—some new and orange but most a weathered green.

Trying to keep her voice steady, Miri said, So this is Asland.

Enrik the trader rolled his eyes. "No, this is just a town."

That night they camped outside the town. Miri looked up from her supper of bacon and potatoes and met eyes with a thin girl, chewing on a stick. The town girl did not speak, just watched Miri with wide eyes. Had she come to see the backward folk of Mount Eskel? Would she run home and make fun of the way Miri ate? Miri hunched her back and turned away.

By the third day, Miri was accustomed to the rhythm of the journey: woods, farms, town, repeated again and again, the shuddering lope of the wagon constant beneath her. She rarely gaped anymore and almost forgot to be afraid until the day they entered Asland.

The rain began as a mist and thickened into annoying pecks on their faces and hands. Soon it was an onslaught, and the girls huddled together under an oiled cloth in the back of Enrik’s lurching wagon. Miri’s stomach squelched.

When Bena made sick noises over the side of the wagon, Miri scrambled forward and out from under the cloth, into the rainstorm.

Death would be better than riding under there, she announced. Death or rain.

Peder and Enrik shared the driver’s bench, huddled under smaller cloths.

You’ll get soaked, said Enrik. With his long nose and thin, stooped shoulders, he reminded Miri of a grumpy vulture.

Already am. At least the air was warmer in the lowlands.

Peder scooted over, and Miri squeezed beside him. He pulled half of his oiled cloth around her. Their legs touched.

The rain teased her hair, slithered through her clothes, and lay against her skin. But in the fresh air her stomach settled, so she hugged her arms and was glad at least to be looking out at the gray-blue world. She’d fantasized many times about her first glimpse of the capital. Her imagination had not planned on rain.

I’m so nervous, she whispered to Peder, her teeth chattering.

You sound it, Peder said.

No, my jaw’s pounding because it misses the sound of quarry hammers.

Or else you’re cold and should get back under the larger cloth.

And deprive you of my company? I’m not so cruel.

Until that year, no mountain villager had journeyed to the lowlands. But so much had changed since the priests divined that Mount Eskel was the home of the future princess. The court-appointed tutor had established a princess academy there to teach the rough mountain girls to read and to introduce them to other subjects each should know in case the prince chose her as his bride. But from the academy books, Miri and the other girls had learned much more, including how the village could sell linder for better prices.

Because of the higher profits, every daylight moment no longer needed to be spent working in the quarry, and Miri had started a village school for anyone who cared to learn. Mount Eskel had been elevated from a territory to a province of Danland, the graduates of the princess academy were named ladies of the princess, and suddenly the world beyond the mountain view was no longer a frightening mystery but a place Miri could visit or even inhabit.

The rain was softening into a fine drizzle. The low clouds lifted, sunlight melted the mist, and Miri saw that they were already in the middle of a city larger than any from her imagination.

Street after street, gardens and fountains, buildings like giants. The bench beneath Miri seemed to drop away, and she felt as if she were falling through the whole, huge world.

Peder pressed his shoulder against hers and opened his eyes wide. She widened her eyes at him and nodded back.

They crossed a bridge over a river. Houses six

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  • (3/5)
    3.5 stars--may up later, I think this book may stick with meI have heard so many raves about this book, and I think I built it way up in my mind. And there was nothing wrong with it--it is quite well done. But it didn't live up to my expectations. I also felt like it was snippets--or, rather, that there were significant snippets missing. Like David's whole first year in Paris--is that when and where he met Hella? How long and significant was their relationship when she went to Spain? How long had he and Jacques known each other? What exactly was their relationship? How long did David know Giovanni for?———Quick summary: David is an American "finding himself" in Paris after a somewhat difficult childhood (widowed father, angry aunt, father remarrying). He meets Hella and falls in love. She goes to Spain. While she is gone he meets Giovanni, a bartender at a bar his friend Jacques takes him to. He ends up moving in with Giovanni and they too have a relationship, which David doesn't intend to keep up when Hella comes back. When she comes back they get engaged, Giovanni is very upset, Hella and David move to the country because David wants to get away. ———So many questions, this book would be great in a book club or class.Did David make a mistake? Would he rather be with Giovanni? Is he marrying Hella just to have an easy average life, and he is not actually in love with her at all? Or is he the type of person that will never be satisfied with the person he is with? Is Giovanni himself running from his sad past with his wife? Is Giovanni still grieving and that is why he is struggling so much? Or does Giovanni feel he was severely punished for trying to conform to society's expectations?
  • (5/5)
    I confess it has been a long while since I last read a true classic of literature. The quality of language and structure of Baldwin's short novel rings so true even today that it is shocking. The narrator has few redeeming qualities as he careens through his process of self-discovery inflicting catastrophic damage on those foolish enough to love him. Every aspect of gay life in the fifties still holds true today, and Baldwin applies his personal experience to good effect. It is impossible for me to imagine the impact this book would have had on an audience sixty years ago. Only his thoughts about women and gender roles generally feels dated. Unfortunately, however good this book, it lands squarely in the genre of the era in which gay characters must end badly, and they all do. That cost him half a star. Nonetheless, the descriptions of certain moments, such as the narrator's first halting sexual experience as a teenager, were breathtaking. The moment of surrender to one's true nature, after a long and fervent struggle to resist, can be cathartic, even to read about.The only item of note I took from the introduction as that the bare outline of the Giovanni's tale was inspired by a real incident during Baldwin's time in Paris.
  • (5/5)
    *This is one of those books that I could review everyday for a week and have something different to say or a different perspective each time I reflect.
    *First of all, it is crazy brave to have written a book about the struggles of denying oneself through the through the story of homosexuality during the time in which Baldwin did. His passion to get his story out regardless of any backlash was enough to make me want to know more.
    *The characters were all rather unlikable, especially the main character, but I loved how Baldwin made me understand them, and feel for them.
    *I was left feeling like I see a lot of things differently and with other things to think about.
    *The sprinkling of French here and there was more distracting than anything. James Baldwin may be a genius, but *I just want a good story.
    *I never got as emotional as I was hoping for given the heavy sobering content.
    *The ending was good stuff.
    *This is definitely a book that can be reread with different effect.
  • (3/5)
    Een kort boekje, maar wel eentje dat intrigeert. Vrijmoedige behandeling van het identiteitsdilemma van een jonge blanke Amerikaan in Parijs. Gaat wel over meer dan alleen homoseksualiteit: liefde, vriendschap, vertrouwen.. Doet qua stijl wat denken aan Hemingway (the Sun also Rises), maar is absoluut een originele verwerking. Laat uiteindelijk een onbevredigde nasmaak achter, maar intussen heb je wel kunnen genieten van een rijkdom aan gevoelens en situaties. Ook interessante behandeling van het thema 'Amerikaan-zijn in Europa". Zeer mooie, subtiele dialogen.
  • (3/5)
    I really wanted to love this one more than I did. It had Baldwin's excellent style but I didn't connect with the characters very much. It has a paragraph of really surprising transmisogyny.
  • (5/5)
    I guess there's a reason that James Baldwin is such a noted author. This book was amazing. It kept me up at night to finish it. The writing was simply captivating. It was deeply bleak and melancholy because that was its story, but it was so descriptive that you felt as if you were there in person to see all the action (or even body language).There is so much French in this book! I took advantage of that by sitting down with Google translate so that I wouldn't miss any nuances of this story. I am so glad that I did because I learned a bit of French at the same time.This is the story of David, an American young man who lives in1950's Paris. His girlfriend Hella goes to Spain to "find herself", and he has to contemplate what to do going forward. He is out of money so he tries to hit up his father for money, and, when that doesn't work, seeks monetary help from an acquaintance named Jacques. There were strings attached to that latter financial transaction which would not become clear until later. During the course of this story, David has to deal with his own homosexual tendencies and decide how to handle them. This sad, painful story is a must read for anyone who ever dealt with such a problem, knew anyone who dealt with such a problem, or simply wants to understand others just a bit better. To learn about others through well-written fiction is to better comprehend and empathize with those in the world around us.I only had one question about this book. David, the protagonist, was a white man. The author, James Baldwin, was a black man. I wondered why. I'm guessing the reason for this was because David's problems were enough for one story without also introducing race as an issue.
  • (5/5)
    Really beautiful. JB feels the things I feel. My brain always pulls a face from my past and glues it to strong characters in my books, and this time it was Giovanni who was someone I knew from my life, who was also Italian. I couldn't stop imagining him. I was David, an American. We sometimes can't fathom the emotion, romance, and passion they show us, and we certainly can't reflect it. I don't know why Americans are so flat and shy and I wish we weren't. The beginning is about the David's family relationships which was very realistic and honest and heartbreaking. It was the one part that brought me to tears. Anyway, the whole book was moving. Disgusted by passion. Honest thoughts. I read it all in two days. Baldwin writes so well, I think I'll read all his books now. And I think I'll watch that movie about him too.
  • (4/5)
    A testament to the strength and beauty of the writing that such a navel-gazing novel held my interest.
  • (4/5)
    My local library has just started to stock books from this great series by Penguin that seems to have been around for a while: 'Penguin Books - Great Loves'. I'd never heard of James Baldwin before, but I picked up this one to begin with as it sounded interesting.Wow - I found the writing in this novel to be so incredibly moving. Many times I went back over sentences as they seemed just so perfectly written and insightful.David is a young American living in 1950s Paris who is on a relationship break from his girlfriend. Whilst she is in Spain figuring out whether they should be together, he is wrestling with the dawning truth of his own sexuality in an era long before any level of sexual revolution, embarking on a darkly passionate affair with the haunted Giovanni. This books sweeps you into the dark turmoil of David's heart, amidst the confusion of the choices he is faced with, neither of which can ultimately bring him happiness whilst he fights between his head and his heart in an era when homosexuality was very much underground. His girlfriend inevitably returns, forcing sorrowful decisions and an ultimate truth that David can never escape from no matter how far he runs.4 stars - simply beautiful. I will be looking out for some more of these 'love gems', which include works by greats including Turgenev, Virgil, Katherine Mansfield, John Updike, Thomas Hardy and Tolstoy.
  • (3/5)
    Een kort boekje, maar wel eentje dat intrigeert. Vrijmoedige behandeling van het identiteitsdilemma van een jonge blanke Amerikaan in Parijs. Gaat wel over meer dan alleen homoseksualiteit: liefde, vriendschap, vertrouwen.. Doet qua stijl wat denken aan Hemingway (the Sun also Rises), maar is absoluut een originele verwerking. Laat uiteindelijk een onbevredigde nasmaak achter, maar intussen heb je wel kunnen genieten van een rijkdom aan gevoelens en situaties. Ook interessante behandeling van het thema 'Amerikaan-zijn in Europa". Zeer mooie, subtiele dialogen.
  • (5/5)
    This book was so great and drew me in so deep that I couldn’t stop reading this until I’ve finished it. Amazing writing skills
  • (5/5)
    This book is incredibly moving. Written decades ago when feelings and attitudes about homosexuality were different than they are today (at least, from appearances), this book shows the trauma and devastation when society's "moral" codes restrict or change the behaviors of people who cannot be freed from them.
    If ever there was a beautifully crafted and honestly told love story, this is it. Like Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, this story tells of a love affair which is doomed from the very beginning. Like Romeo and Juliet, it ends tragically. And like Romeo and Juliet, the damage extends far beyond the principle participants.
    While deeply and undeniably in love with another man, the story's protagonist cannot escape his upbringing, his sexual confusion, and his inability to become fully formed as a human being and surpass the expectations and prejudices of a society that is all too quick to judge and condemn. In his weakness and inability to come to grips with who he is, David, the protagonist, hurts others, hurts himself, and ultimately "dies" to the life of joy and fulfillment he might have enjoyed had he been able to live his life honestly.
    James Baldwin must have felt the same pains, both because he himself was homosexual and because no one could write a story so deep, so feeling, so emotionally devastating other than a person who had gone through the same experiences.
    Throughout the book, I could not help feeling that I was not reading a novel, but instead was being privileged to read someone's deepest feelings and most crippling pain.
    This book centers around a homosexual relationship, to be sure, but it is not really about that. It is about the pain of loving deeply, completely, and, in the end, hopelessly.
  • (5/5)
    What a wonderful yet very powerful read. David is betrothed to Hella, he is an American living in Paris waiting for his lover to join him. A chance meeting at a Paris bar with a young attractive Italian, Giovanni, results in David questioning values that he has always believed to be true. He takes a decision that will profoundly alter the course of his life, with devastating consequences.Giovanni's room poses the question, do we as humans follow convention and lead a life and follow a set of codes that is expected of us or should we throw caution to the wind and by so doing be true to our self. A story that it is impossible not to be affected by and issues as important today as when the novel was first published. Highly Recomended
  • (4/5)
    Digital audiobook performed by Dan Butler.A classic of gay literature explores the coming of age of a young American living in Paris in the 1950s. Torn between his fiancé and the bartender he meets and comes to love, David struggles to find a way to be true to himself. I don’t know how I came across this little gem of a novel. But I’m so glad I’ve read it. Baldwin’s writing is evocative and atmospheric. His characters are well drawn and reveal their strengths and weaknesses through their thoughts and actions. I did think the dialogue was a little stilted, especially between Hella and David, but then I suppose it would be, as these characters (particularly David) are trained to be circumspect about such things. And David has spent so much of his young life hiding the truth from others, and, more importantly, from himself. The tragedy that unfolds as a result of all this duplicity is perhaps inevitable, but still breaks my heart. I feel for all these characters as their dreams and aspirations are slowly destroyed. I think Hella will find her way; her eyes have been opened and she’ll be more cautious next time, but she’ll find love again. But David? I worry for David. I wonder what is next for him as the novel closes, and I can’t seem to imagine a happy ending. But perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps he’s learned something valuable about being honest with himself and others. Perhaps he’ll get another chance to love honestly and find happiness. In today’s environment, certainly that could happen. In the 1950s?
  • (5/5)
    This is one of those books that I probably would never have read if it hadn't been on the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list and that would have been a shame. I thought the writing was beautiful and the story tugged at my heartstrings.David grew up in the USA but in his 20s he went to France to counter the aimlessness he felt at home. At the time of this book he has been there for some years. He appears to have spent his time gathering with artists and writers in bars and cafes in Paris so I don't think he found an aim there either. He did find a girlfriend, Hella, who came from Minnesota to study art in Paris. Hella had gone to visit Spain leaving David on his own in Paris. While visiting a gay bar he sees the bartender, Giovanni, with whom he is intrigued. David had one homosexual encounter when he was still a teenager with his best friend but they never continued the sexual relationship. However at the end of the night he goes home with Giovanni to the cramped, squalid room that Giovanni rents. For the next couple of months David and Giovanni live together and have a sexual relationship. Giovanni knew about Hella but he probably thought that David was through with her. However when Hella returns to Paris David leaves the room he and Giovanni share with no notice to Giovanni and meets Hella's train, continuing on to her hotel room. When they do meet Giovanni is with Jacques, a gay man who acquires young boyfriends for a while and then finishes with them. David and Giovanni have an emotional discussion when David returns to the room to get his things and it is obvious that Giovanni is heartbroken. He is also hard up because he lost his bartending job. Then David hears that Giovanni might possibly get the bartending job back but David knows the owner of the bar will exact some additional services from Giovanni if he does rehire him. David recounts all this from a cottage in the south of France where he and Hella moved for the colder months. But we also know that Hella has returned to the USA and that Giovanni is about to be guillotined as a punishment for murder because David tells us these things in the beginning. As I listened to this book it felt to me like I was waiting for a second shoe to drop; I knew it was going to happen but I didn't know under what circumstances.Baldwin's own experience as a gay man obviously is part of the reason he wrote the book but, unlike most of his other books, there are no black characters and so it is certainly not autobiographical. He did move to Paris and then the south of France but his reason was to get away from the racism he experienced in the US. Baldwin himself said that the book wasn't autobiographical; rather he had had a few drinks with a blond Frenchman who was arrested a few days later for committing murder and subsequently guillotined. When this book came out in the 1950s it must have been quite shocking because of the details of homosexual relationships. That was probably why it was chosen for the 1001 list but it still has something to offer modern readers.
  • (4/5)
    It has been a long time since I’ve read a novel so lovely and ugly at the same time (Sartre or Dostoevsky maybe?). Beautiful prose, sometimes about love and self-discovery, and then also self-hatred, misogyny, violence, and the threat of violence. Overall a great book.
  • (4/5)
    Wonderful, shimmering book that ended leaving me sad and depressed.
  • (5/5)
    (review originally written for bookslut)

    For every reader I believe there exist certain books that they will just fall into. From the very first sentence, it is obvious that there is something about the rhythm of the writing that matches the rhythm of the reader's brain. For me, Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin was one of those books. I opened it up at a bus stop and was immediately enraptured. In fact I had to close the book again almost as quickly, because I wasn't quite ready to be that deeply involved. I had just finished Tahar Djaout's The Last Summer of Reason and thought I would be able to slide myself gently into Baldwin's Paris, not find myself immediately in a house in southern France.

    Anyway, the troublesome thing about books that one falls into is that they don't just get under your skin, they permeate you. This may be an altogether fine thing when reading Jane Austen, where whatever tribulations the characters may suffer during the course of the book, by the end everyone is properly matched and enjoying whatever measure of happiness that they deserve. Oh, to live in an Austen novel! Unfortunately, in life, and perhaps in every other novel not written by Austen, human beings and their loves do not work themselves out so neatly.

    Giovanni's Room is about the tragedy of one man's tortured heart, and the poison it spreads to all those with the misfortune of becoming close to him. The narrator, David, discovers early in his life the joy that is to be had in other man's arms. But nothing in his life terrifies him as much as this discovery, from which he runs far and hard. When he finds joy again in Giovanni's room, it quickly becomes clear that it cannot last, that love does not always conquer all, and that it actually stands no chance against fear and self-delusion.

    When I finally put this book down, I walked around dazed for a bit, feeling terribly hollow inside. It is on this book that I finally blame my moment of weakness, in which I reached for and devoured a cheesy
    romance novel (though this book surely doesn't deserve such association). But after walking around for a week, having the despair of Giovanni's Room resonating inside my brain, I needed something trivial, something optimistic. Something with a deliriously unrealistic happy ending.

    I do recommend this book. I think that it is beautiful and true and provides glimpses into unopened rooms in your heart. But I hope that you have something altogether fluffy to read afterwords...
  • (5/5)
    Written with wonderful awareness and prosaic beauty, Baldwin gives the reader an insight into expatriate life in 1950's Paris and a young man's struggles to come to terms with his sexuality and his sexual identity. Underneath this struggle lies a love story, albeit a repressed one fraught with guilt, as David struggles to avoid certain choices for reasons of social and familial acceptance. I found the feeling of isolation David experienced harrowing as he internalized his struggle and tried to put on a brave, indifferent front and a strong emotional theme of the story. The story is about awakening to reality. About climbing above the fog that society expects one to remain enveloped in. It is also about how trapped one can feel when society exhibits indications of refusing to accept someone for who they are. Overall, a beautifully written story I am very happy to have finally read it.
  • (5/5)
    In post-WWII Paris, David, an American expat of confused sexuality, has relationships with Hella, an American woman he considers marrying, and Giovanni, an Italian waiter he moves in with in Hella's absence. The story has been described as a "love triangle" but I am surprised by how little love is actually in it. David, who narrates the story, is an emotionally stunted man who wants a socially-acceptable, conventional marriage with Hella one moment and...well, it's hard to say exactly what he wants from Giovanni other than sex. One of the main themes of the work is how little we really know about other people, even those we claim to love. David doesn't really know Hella, or Giovanni, and he doesn't really love either of them.Published originally in 1956, Giovanni's Room is often regarded as a classic work of pre-Stonewall gay literature, but it is not a book about gay pride. Rather, it is a book about gay (and bisexual) self-loathing. In the book, homosexuality is almost synonymous with desperation and alcoholism. The two old gay men in the narrative (Jacques and Guillaume; they are not exactly friends of David and Giovanni, but they are in the same social circle) are both portrayed as pathetic, repulsive "fairies", "old queens" etc. "Giovanni's room" itself is descried as a cramped, filthy, uncomfortable place (David tries to clean it up, but fails). It's not any sort of paradise. It isn't even an adequate love nest. At the beginning of their affair David and Giovanni are happy, but "[b]eneath the joy, of course, was anguish, and beneath the amazement was fear. ..[Later] anguish and fear [became] the surface on which we slipped and slid, losing balance, dignity and pride" (p. 117). David likens his same-sex attraction to a "beast" and goes on to say, "The beast which Giovanni had awakened in me would never go to sleep again; but one day I would not be with Giovanni any more. And would I then, like all the others, find myself turning and following all kinds of boys down God knows what dark avenues, into what dark places?....[T]here opened in me a hatred of Giovanni which was as powerful as my love and which was nourished by the same roots" (p. 130).The book is, for the most part, beautifully written (except for a few occasions in which David gets tangled in his own words), and once the narrative gains momentum in the second half, quite compelling. But it is a sad story that doesn't hold out any hope for an end to David's loneliness.
  • (5/5)
    Intense, enlightening, quickly read, mildly disturbing, and surprisingly emotionally engaging no matter how gay or straight you may be. I read this in what is likely to become my life's best 4-hour-long bath, but I can't deny how thankful I was for the cleansing shower that followed. Heartbreaking and touching. Maybe in a few days I'll be able to put together a review that's more than peppered adjectives and hot water.
  • (4/5)
    Baldwin consistently writes passages in no matter what I read by him (I re-read "Sonny's Blues" recently, too) that absolutely blow me away with their brilliance. This was no exception.
  • (4/5)
    Please don't read this until AFTER you come out of the closet - it might just scare you back in there...And it is profoundly depressing. But stunning too!
  • (5/5)
    'No matter what I was doing, another me sat in my belly, absolutely cold with terror over the question of my life',, 8 February 2015This review is from: Giovanni's Room (Penguin Great Loves) (Paperback)Set in 1950s Paris - and how beautifully Baldwin brings the city to life - this short novel is narrated by a white American male, living the cafe culture on handouts from home. While his girlfriend is off touring Spain, he falls for dashing young bartender Giovanni, and moves in with him.But despite its moments of joy, the relationship is flawed by David's inability to admit to his own homosexuality. Imagining the 'normal' families in the houses he passes, he reflects:'It was true... I wanted children. I wanted to be inside again, with the light and safety, with my manhood unquestioned, watching my woman put my children to bed... I wanted a woman to be for me a steady ground, like the earth itself.'David's vacillating leads to heartbreak and a terrible ending....This was a powerful work that really brings to light the shame and denial that societal pressures can put on a person.
  • (5/5)
    A powerful, moving story of self exploration. Two young men discover a frightening truth about their sexuality, and proceed to struggle painfully with their passion and love for one another in the face of societal judgements. An Italian and an American find themselves in a foriegn country and foriegn emotional territory. Certainly, progress has occured since the publication of this novel, but really....when will hatred and fear stop reigning supreme?
  • (3/5)
    Evocative but enervating. A young American in Paris wrecks the lives of his girlfriend and the young Italian who falls in love with him. Seriously - I blame David for everything. He drives Giovanni to murder and starts Hella (great name!) to ranting about the condition of woman. Hey, if you don't want to get married, don't bother, love. Beautiful writing, full of dark truths - 'the world is mostly divided between madmen who remember and madmen who forget. Heroes are rare' - and definitely insightful, but very, very depressing.
  • (4/5)
    David, a young American man, sleepwalks through Paris in the years following World War II. He lives on money in a trust which his father charily metes out to him - requests for which may or may not be met. David ostensibly awaits the return of his fiancée from Spain, although it’s never clear that he looks forward to her return all that impatiently. Instead, he falls in with a couple of lecherous Parisian businessmen, whose tastes clearly run to the homoerotic. David falls in and dallies with these men; these are his own deepest proclivities as well. He’s kept his orientation secret from his father, and has remained in Paris as a way of keeping a distance from him. He does love Hella the fiancée, or thinks he does. He may see her as a way of returning to a more orthodox life, but this isn’t clear.What is clear in this work is David’s love for Giovanni, a young excitable Italian who falls hard for David. It is the tragedy of the story that David turns his back on Giovanni and leaves him in a desperate situation, with life-and-death consequences. David cannot see a way out of his prison; even the promise of his fiancée evaporates, as she leaves him, disheartened and disillusioned to return home to America.He has built a prison for himself, out of the worst materials possible: guilt and shame. He sees no escape and argues and recriminates with himself constantly. He rationalizes every move, every cruel decision, as another step in “finding himself,” or in curing himself. But in David’s case, there is no cure for selfish.The story plunges toward a grim singularity - Giovanni’s death - his desperate crime bringing down France’s ultimate sentence. David knows, or again, thinks he knows, the date; he tortures himself by imagining what Giovanni’s last minutes will be like, but he feels he cannot help from doing so. Such is the love he once had for Giovanni.In a dark and horrific sequence, David imagines Giovanni’s last moments before execution. He does this in the home he and Hella had rented in the south of France. He stares into a mirror as he packs to leave; as the daylight shifts, his own image begins to grow transparent and disappear. Fro the book:“I move at last from the mirror and begin to cover that nakedness which I must hold sacred, though it be never so vile, which must be scoured perpetually with the salt of my life. I must believe, I must believe, that the heavy grace of God, which has brought me to this place, is all that can carry me out of it.”Here I read a kind of surrender, in which David finally finds himself alone in the world, turning to a faith he does not feel, and somehow hopes that it will deliver him from his crisis. This patently will not work.And further:“And at last I step out into the morning and I lock the door behind me. … And I look up the road where a few people stand, men and women, waiting for the morning bus. They are very vivid beneath the awakening sky, and the horizon behind them is beginning to flame.”David thus accompanies the only person he’s ever loved on the bier to the next world. But he’s been riding down the slippery slope with Giovanni since the beginning of their relationship. David’s absorption in his shame makes this inevitable. Baldwin uses plain language to illuminate David’s state of mind. David’s shame, lust, guilt, and fear all bear the bright unflinching glare of David’s disgust with himself. This is remarkable writing. Baldwin wanted to lay bare the torturous rationalizations and admissions of cowardice felt by a man in this trial of life. He succeeds admirably. He succeeds also in aligning the outcome for his hero with a strict morality, in which the completely self-absorbed man ends with nothing, facing a void in the awakening, flaming sky.
  • (4/5)
    This is such a well written book. The story, is of David, a white man who travels to Paris and has a relationship with a young Italian man while his girlfriend who he has asked to marry is traveling in Spain to think about the proposal. David is confused, ambiguous, and not very sure of himself. He struggles with his identity and is very unfair to the young man, Giovanni, who he has been sharing a room with during his gf's travels. The edition I read, for 1001 traveling book swap, was the Everyman's Edition and had a forward by Col Toíbín which I really enjoyed. He compared this book to The Ambassadors by Henry James and The Sun also Rises by Hemingway. So this would be a good companion read with those. It is a book that examines relationships that David has with his early childhood friends, father, girlfriend and with Giovanni. It is a book about "identity". On page 22, David states; "... the self I was going to find would turn out to be only the same self from which I had spent so much time in flight..." So "no matter where you go, there you are.". There are so many great quotes in the book. The book, of course is a LGBTQ book written in the fifties and examines the problems that a young man faced during this time. Relationships were hard to secure and the gay man often found himself really not much better off than a prostitute. Working the bars and streets for young boys and features old men referred to "queens" that is the future that awaits a young, gay man, if he cannot find a life partner. The book is well written and I enjoyed it and highly recommend it.
  • (3/5)
    Thing’s have gone awry for Giovanni. He is — as his former lover, David, notes — living through his last night. The guillotine arrives at dawn for Giovanni’s life and possibly also for David. Much of what follows traces David’s first days with Giovanni, the blossoming of their relationship, and its eventual decline. A decline largely brought about by David’s inability to embrace either his situation or his nature. Denial looms large and when David’s fiancé returns to Paris, David disavows Giovanni and sets the final trail of destruction in motion.It may be very hard to fully appreciate the significance of this short novel outside of its historical context. Certainly the relationship between David and Giovanni seems unhealthy from the start (though not in comparison to those engendered by Jacques or Guillaume). David’s self-hating estrangement from his own feelings makes his co-habitation of Giovanni’s room always a kind of exploitation. Exploitation of Giovanni but also of the very possibility of David’s happiness. There seems so little hope for this relationship that its flourishing in a suburb of Paris only plays up how impossible it would have been back in David’s America at that time.The differences in America between the 1950s and today, while not absolute, are nonetheless so dramatic as to make this novel almost an historical curiosity. And that’s too bad, because there is also some lovely writing here quite apart of from the overt “issues” that demand one’s attention. Gently recommended.
  • (4/5)
    David is a young man living in Paris and reflecting on a doomed love affair. This poetic story, a mere 160 pages, delves not only into his relationship with Giovanni, but also into his confusion, self-loathing, loneliness, shame and more. In a flawed attempt to figure out who he is and what he truly wants, David has a tendency to hurt those around him with little or no feeling. Baldwin’s beautiful and succinct writing style pulls readers into David’s world. In addition to telling a tragic love story, the book touches on the complicated role women held in society in the early 20th century. As they began to gain the freedom to make their own decisions they realized that in many ways they weren’t really free. The expectation was still that they find a husband as soon as possible. “I don’t see what’s so hard about being a woman. At least, not as long as she’s got a man.” “‘That’s just it,’ said she. ‘Hasn’t it ever struck you that that’s a sort of humiliating necessity?’” … ‘I began to realize it in Spain that – that I wasn’t free, that I couldn’t be free until I was attached – no committed to someone.’”BOTTOM LINE: A haunting look at love and its many forms, this story reminds the readers of the importance of understanding who you are. The pain and heartbreak is universal when we can’t even be honest with ourselves. “But people can’t, unhappily, invent their mooring posts, their lovers and their friends, any more than they can invent their parents.”“Much has been written of love turning to hatred, of the heart growing cold with the death of love. It is a remarkable process. It is far more terrible than anything I have ever read about it, more terrible than anything I will ever be able to say.”