Book Review

Book Review: The Dark Arena by Mario Puzo

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Sometimes I wanna fight like hell against everything around me, but I don’t know what to fight. It seems like I can’t get out of a straight line to a trap.

The Dark Arena is the first novel by the renowned crime novelist Mario Puzo published in 1955. Set in post World War II Germany, the book is told in the third person narrative and evolves around the life of Walter Mosca, an American G.I. who fell in love with a German girl.

The novel started at the end of the World War II where we find our protagonist, Walter on his way back home to America. Once home, he’s gone restless and thought that he would rather be back in Germany where all the ruins, faces and memories from the now-over war is everywhere. Soon, he decided to go back in Germany and once he reached Bremen, he went and look for Hella, a girl he met during the war and the reason he is back in the land of the enemy.

Together, Hella and Walter tried to live a harmonious life as a couple in a society where a relationship like theirs is considered a taboo. They made each day count, all along waiting for the wedding ban for American-German couple to be lifted. Though the book ended tragically, Walter and Hella’s union gave birth to a wonderful son.

The book speaks with a grim tone, someone who have gone through a war just like Walter could only have. It depicts the distorted view the world had during the war and how people struggle to move on with their lives even after the war is over.

I’ve always been drawn to books/stories related to the World War II because I find the emotions, insights and overall theme to have a deep and profound meaning. With this book, there are varying emotions thrown in but the story lacked in depth. The only thing I liked about it is the fact that Puzo was able to conjure up a character so cruel that you’d think how brave it was for a writer to come up with such an idea – to offer an awfully detestable main character to the readers.

I found it boring as the events in the book didn’t get me going and there’s not much to look forward to. I kept on waiting on every chapter for a cliffhanger, or something that would spice up the story but there were none. I’d give it a poor 2 out of 5 stars for I find the plot quite shallow and a bit meaningless. I love Mario Puzo for the brilliant job he’s done with The Godfather, but this novel was a “meh”.  I don’t think I would recommend it to anyone I know. If you want to experience the real Mario Puzo greatness, go grab a copy of The Godfather.

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