Goldfinger – Ian Fleming – 4 stars
This was actually my first time reading an original James Bond book! (I’ve dabbled in the ‘Young Bond’ books by Charlie Higson) Although it is the seventh in the series, it’s not difficult at all to pick up on the premise. It’s almost everything I could have asked for in a tale of espionage: adventure, suspense and a dash of cool gadgetry.
Sadly, James Bond is so iconic and the stories so widely alluded to that a lot of the plot components weren’t surprising to me. That doesn’t take away from the fact that Fleming is wildly creative and fiercely intelligent; it just lost the element of surprise.
In this story, Agent 007 takes on the challenge of bringing down thief and swindler Mr Goldfinger, only to find that he may be in a little over his head.
The plot trundles along perfectly well until the golf scene – as someone who knows nothing whatsoever about golf, all the sports jargon went completely over my head. It was long and intricately described, but all I really wanted to know was who won.
I’m going to be honest with you now – this novel is a strong ‘five star’ candidate. It’s well written, gripping and fantastically plotted. What really tainted the experience for me was the fact that James Bond is kind of a jerk. Let’s talk about his womanising. He forces the villain of the story to send him his secretary for no other purpose than his own pleasure. Does he not consider the situation he’s putting this woman in? Can he really be surprised when she ends up dead? After heavily contributing to the cause of her death, surely he would never even consider pursuing her own sister…Oh wait.
The thing that got me was that the writer seemed to fully support his character. There were comments made in the prose – outside of the character’s thoughts – that bordered on misogyny and were well in the realm of chauvinism. Women are given no power in this story! Not only that, but Fleming explains away the brutal promiscuity and accidental murders in flashes of emotional reflection. Wait, are we supposed to sympathise now?
There’s more. I can understand that at the time this was written, World War 2 was still fresh in everyone’s minds. I’d hate to cry ‘racism’, but there are a few lines in this book that really didn’t sit well with me. Negative generalisations of ethnic groups is never ok – never mind which side of the war they were on!
If we can get past the shaky ethics, Goldfinger is a genuinely good novel. I don’t suggest a boycott or anything so drastic; just a little care. Don’t believe everything you read!
If you’ve read this too, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you think I’m over-reacting?
Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!