Giovanni’s Room is an intimate, confessional narrative of an American named David who looks back on his turbulent experiences in France on the eve of his return to the United States. The novel works through two time frames simultaneously, for as past events are recounted, the relevance of the present moment gradually emerges. By the end, night has become morning, and only then does the story being told reach its conclusion.
Months earlier, David came to France with his girlfriend Hella, but uncertainty in their relationship and her wanderlust sent her traveling solo to Spain. David, with little money and none forthcoming from his father in the United States, befriends and exploits the generosity of a middle-aged homosexual, a Belgian American businessman named Jacques. With Jacques he moves through the world of Paris gay bars, and at one of them he meets a handsome Italian bartender named Giovanni. David and Giovanni have an immediate rapport, and on the night of their meeting they stay out until dawn under the patronage of Jacques and Giovanni’s boss Guillaume; they end up alone back at Giovanni’s room, where they embark on a sexual relationship.
Having little money, David moves in with his new lover. Though David has had homosexual feelings and experiences before, the intensity of his fascination for Giovanni, and his own position in life—nearing thirty, and, ostensibly, marriage with Hella—make his relationship with Giovanni new and threatening. As so often has happened in the past, David ignores the possible consequences of his actions and continually reminds himself of his freedom, at any point, to abandon this new situation.
Giovanni’s room, as the title suggests, has metaphorical significances for the story David is telling. It is cluttered with the debris of Giovanni’s life—an unhappy past in Italy, an uncertain future in France, a superficial present of drinking and pandering among a...
(The entire section is 797 words.)