Picks and Pans Review: The Sicilian

updated 12/17/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/17/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Mario Puzo

The main character in this satisfying spin-off from The Godfather is a handsome young Sicilian bandit, a Robin Hood named Salvatore Guiliano. The story starts in 1950, when Michael Corleone is about to return to America after two years of hiding from the U.S. law. His instructions from his father are to bring the bandit—the most wanted criminal in Sicily—with him. Then the book flashes back to 1943 to detail Guiliano's life story. (Because of the film versions of Puzo's earlier books, readers come to this new one equipped with extraordinarily vivid images. Michael is the sullen Al Pacino character; his father is the wily Marlon Brando. Guiliano might be young Ralph Macchio.) In Sicily the Mafia's men speak of honor but live—and die—with betrayals and incredibly bloody vendettas. Puzo does a masterly job of creating a Sicily where "there is always treachery within treachery." And Don Corleone can say, "A man's first duty is to keep himself alive." In order to give his tale a kind of sweeping grandeur, Puzo makes his characters all bigger than life too: quick to anger, to violence, to tears. The Sicilian is the novel as grand opera. Puzo—in his most professional, uncluttered, unobtrusive prose—does it just right. (Linden, $17.95)

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