Long before Goldfinch was chosen by my book group, I was offered it on Kindle for 99 something – pence or cents, that would hardly break the bank, though my friend in Santa Barbara, California, tells me that Donna Tartt is a millionaire. No wonder, even after such a tempting offer. I wonder who arranged the offer, most likely as a result of one’s monitored reading habits. So be it. My friend Franchesca, an avid reader, is defiantly offline. I occasionally feel we are the only two left on the planet that communicate by snail mail.
So I’ve started to read. I read and read. 1% shows at the bottom of my Kindle page. I read and read. 2% proves elusive. After a couple of days I’m blessed with 2%. It’s almost like reaching an oasis. I don’t, however, seem able to get out of the bombed Metropolitan Museum. From a young man unwilling to leave his room in Amsterdam to his remembered self, the narrator, aged 13, is off with his mother to see his school’s head after some misdemeanour. It’s raining. They have time to spare so they pop into the Metropolitan Museum, see an exhibition of Dutch art; they separate, the narrator notes a red-haired girl (she will reappear, I’m sure) and her aged relative. The explosion and the old man hands the narrator the picture of the goldfinch before dying (graphically described).
Still only at a Kindle 2%, we’re out in the streets around the museum which I know so well, looking for his mother. We all know that the Metropolitan Museum in New York has, to date, not been bombed, but it could – heaven forbid – be a future possibility. The ‘what if’ has never been my preferred sort of novel – what if the Germans invaded during WWII and marched down Whitehall, London, past the Cenotaph celebrating all who fell in WWI? Would there be people welcoming them in the streets, as when Hitler marched into Vienna? Perish the thought. But a possible disaster in the future – would writing about it make it more likely to happen? Give someone the idea?
A plaintive description of the 13-year-old narrator wandering the streets to search for his mother in the ensuing confusion and eventually returning to wait for her at home leads me slowly to 4% . An inexplicable and daunting flash at the bottom of the kindle – Goldfinch is over 700 pages long! I’ll never finish it in time, what with Jordan and Petra in between.
I’m now at 8% with the social workers, but with a long way still to go. I wish I just had good old numbered pages, though 700 pages plus would be heavy to carry round Petra. Better keep to Kindle.