Yesterday I finshed ‘The Goldfinch’. I was so hooked on it I was reading the final chapters on my phone. Jeremy and I had taken a walk to pick up the car (which turned out to have nothing wrong with it, mercifully) and on the way back we stopped at The Ash Tree tea rooms in Heaton Chapel, which we’d noticed before but never stopped at.
I read those final pages – piercingly beautiful stuff, I thought – all those epiphanies earned and all those loose ends tied – and Jeremy’s sat there with the most perfect vanilla sponge cake with butter cream. Excellent tea, as well. I was told they’d have to make my vanilla slice especially… but it never arrived! I was teetering… just about teetering…! – on the edge of disappointment, but I was too busy thinking about Donna Tartt and what she says about the glimmer of magic and love that happens between reality and illusion. And all that woundingly perfect stuff about the Goldfinch itself, chained to its branch in a miserable life (‘thimble of bravery, all fluff and brittle bone. Not timid, not even hopeless, but steady and holding its place. Refusing to pull back from the world.’)
Anyhow, the nice lady said that they had mislaid my freshly-made mille-feuille somewhere between the demonstration area and the cafe but were boxing it up, and there would be no charge. It was a joy to finish my book there, with such thoughtful service. (Jeremy had watched me, amused, as I steeled myself to cancel my order because it was too late. And then he was as pleased as I was by the careful, sweet way they redeemed themselves.) It was busy and not very quiet in there– but somehow that novel of Tartt’s has kept me in a concentrated bubble all week. It’s trapped me there, just as I remember Secret History doing, twenty years ago.
And I love the fact that such a sophisticated, thoughtful, witty novel still had lots of action and adventure and sheer pulpy moments with fights and guns and chases, too. Good for you, DT.
And the pulpiness leads me into my announcement for today – and that is that A HUNDRED YEARS OF PAPERBACKS is officially begun! We have a Facebook page and we’d love it if you joined and ‘liked’ it.
In short, what Stuart Douglas and I are going to do, is embark on a grand reading challenge that will take us back in time to 1900. We’re going to read one novel per year for the whole twentieth century – and veer about through all the genres and every kind of novel you can think of. Cult, popular, SF, Romance, epic, historical, literary classic, memoir, everything! And we’re going to blog about them in tandem, in conversation. We’ve got a dedicated website (open soon!) and the Facebook group, and I shall link from here, too.
We’d like you to join in. It’d be great if you read along with us. We’ll blog about each book at the end of each month – and then announce the following month’s choice at the same time. We want your comments and questions – and your ideas and suggestions, too.
So – here’s where we’re starting. Jules Verne is kicking us off. And we’re reading his ‘Seconde Patrie’ – which in English was translated as ‘The Castaways of the Flag.’
For us, the twentieth century is beginning with a story of desert islands, the Swiss Family Robinson getting wrecked again and as many sea turtles as you can eat.