Friday, 26 September 2014

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. 7.66 recurring!

No getting round it The Goldfinch is quite a doorstop (over 800 pages) so I looked sharp, ordered the book the day after our last meeting and set about reading it the day it arrived. I even stashed it in to my hand luggage only suitcase when nipping to Mallorca for the weekend (how jet set does that sound!) Yes yes Kindle would have been lighter but I’m a fan of BOOKS!

Unlike some weighty novels though this didn’t feel wordy and didn’t seem to drag. The book could be compartmentalised into clear sections, before the museum, the Barbours, Las Vegas, Hobie, Amsterdam, Theo’s monologue, which moved the book along nicely and didn’t leave you bored or skipping pages. That’s not to say it I breezed through it, it took me right up until the day of our meeting to get it read but it wasn’t painful the way some books can be.

I did stop at around the 400 page mark and think how on earth is this 14 year old boy going to end up a man in Amsterdam by the time I get to page 800 but we got there in the end with pages to spare.

It was refreshing to read a book that was so different to others on the market at the moment. I've read so many wronged wife stories at the moment that to read through the eyes of a young boy was a pleasant change. We did comment at the meeting how it was nice to read about characters we liked/cared about. A few of our most recent books left us not giving a damn about what happened just as long as we finally got to the end. Yet with this one even with characters that were ‘bad’ we liked them - Boris even though (SPOILER) he took the painting (by the way totally didn’t see that coming!)

A few of us thought the book very hard to place initially. One of us thought it was set around the 1950s until Theo started to mention mobile phones. I also thought the book could easily have been set in Europe. Maybe because Theo started off in Amsterdam that when it took you back to his childhood I just automatically assumed we were still around there somewhere. It was only when specific places in New York were referred to that I realise oh different continent!

I did have several questions as the book ended. Did Theo really love Pippa or was it because she was his only living link to his mother/before the bomb? He started off by saying that he did develop obsessions with people and I think this coupled with the fact that he met her on that day at that time added to his feelings for her over the years. This made me lean towards the fact that he didn’t truly love her just what she represented – the past, happier times and even purity.

I also had to question as to whether the goldfinch (and the chain) was meant to represent Theo. Was he chained to a life of sorrow because he took the painting like the bird was? Did handing the painting back (OK so he didn’t exactly but you get what I mean) set him free/let him fly back to a path of betterness? He did start to go round and try to make things right with the furniture after the painting had been returned. I thought this line of thought had some weight to it yet Theo was already on the path of trouble when we met him as he was on his way to school to find out if he had been expelled for smoking and had been stealing with his friend Tom Cable. Maybe he was already the chained bird?

There was also a couple of things I didn’t get. Number one being Lucious Reeve – it didn’t really end satisfactorily with him, he stirred things up with Hobie and then we were left in the dark as to what action he took next. Did he leave them alone when he found out the painting had been returned? Why was he so vindictive? I would have liked a bit more here.

Also Welty in the museum told Theo to warn Hobie to get out of the shop as the family were on to him. For whatever reason Theo didn’t pass this message on (why?) but nobody from the family seemed to then have it in for Hobie so why did Welty insist on this? Was he just delusional at this point? Was it Welty who was in fact the dodgy dealer and Theo ended up following in his footsteps?

I know a couple of us were disappointed with the ending. Not with how it turned out but how it was written. For me it was about 50 pages too long and the seemingly endless monologue at the end seemed self-indulgent. It was the only place the book dragged which although disappointing at the end isn’t too bad when you consider how long it is.

Overall we were impressed, we liked the writing style and the characters and awarded it a 7.666666. However due to how much we liked it we rounded it up to an 8.

Next book Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer – free on Kindle apparently!

Question of the Month. – Easy one this month in an attempt to get people answering! What was the last book you read? (other than The Goldfinch of course!) Mine was The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Got better as it went on when I picked up more on the themes behind it.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope

So I didn’t read this book as I was on holiday when meeting was on and despite being given the book for free I never got round to picking it up. I'm stuck in the middle of Huckleberry Finn and wasn’t really inspired to leave it for a book my mum gave up on less than half way through. It’s part of a project known as the Austen Project designed to update the works of Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice and Emma are receiving similar reworkings and are scheduled for release later on in the year.

My mums biggest problem with the book was the fact it was modern – asthma, Range Rovers and IPhones all of which are so NOT Austen. I get her point but really that is the whole point of the re-workings to make them modern. If you can’t get past that point then really the book is always going to fail.

To be honest it does sound like the type of book I normally avoid, not the fact that it’s a reworking but the fact that really if you take Austen away and stick it in the real world it’s kind of a bit too chick lit for me but that is me being very prejudiced and please don’t be put off by that I haven’t even touched the first page! I do think I will give it a crack at some point as I don’t like to not read the book clubs books. I have added it to the pile under my bed!

It wasn’t just my mum though the group were equally unimpressed with this version and rated it a 4.5. That’s quite a low score and I will try to find out more reasoning behind it during next meeting. I suspect the biggest reason will be ‘it’s just not Austen’ and whereas PD James remained faithful to the setting/characters in Death Comes to Pemberley which we all found acceptable perhaps introducing Elinor and Marianne to twitter is a step too far for Austen lovers.

Comments really appreciated this month due to my lack of reading book/attending meeting

Question of the month is Which book should never be reworked?