Book Review 11: GIOVANNI’s ROOM by James Baldwin

James Baldwin amazes me in one particular way in this book. He is able to explore the innermost world of his characters yet continue to push the narrative forward. Baldwin searches deeply into human psychology when he writes. The quest into the human mind left me uncomfortable at times and open to life’s possibilities at other times.

Baldwin has a way of helping the reader have interest in the psychology of the character. As a result, I noticed myself exploring my own psychological state. Time and time again I would read a description of a character’s mental state then unconsciously set the book down on the table to reflect upon my own mental life.

Giovanni’s room represents a place of comfort and peace. Similar to WHY I LIVE at the PO which shows the post office as a place of freedom to be one’s self, Giovanni’s room allows two men who are intimately involved to experience tenderness for and with each other without judgment from the world. But, their experience was for comfort’s sake primary not primarily for freedom as it was in WHY I LIVE at the PO. Each lover wanted the comfort of the relationship which the room for a time facilitated. Sure in the room they were able to relate to another freely but comfort seemed to be their primary motivation.

Comfort comes when one binds themselves with another in the right location at the right time. If we search for comfort without others we will wander without aim. The main character, who was attached to Giovanni and a female lover, found comfort in Giovanni’s room because he could escape society’s norms yet he strangely found comfort in his woman’s arms because he had someone to run to whenever he needed to return to conventional society. With commitment to others comes comfort—direction, purpose, and meaning.

Find comfort in friendship,


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