The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

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Donna Tartt’s third book divided critics but still won the Pulitzer Prize

“Maybe sometimes–the wrong way is the right way? You can take the wrong path and it still comes out where you want to be? Or, spin it another way, sometimes you can do everything wrong and it still turns out to be right?” Boris, p. 835.

Well, I really don’t know what to say about The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt … apart from thank goodness that’s over.

The subject matter is … depressing. The main character, Theo, is depressing. What happens to him is depressing. His outlook on life is depressing. His self-loathing is depressing. His best friend, Boris, is a maniac, drug-addicted alcoholic whose psychotic ideas of a good time are really destructive … and depressing.

Please don’t read this book if the weather’s bad and you need something to do. The rain exacerbates the depressing depression.

At 864 pages, it’s too long; there are slabs of ‘intellectual’ waffle and navel-gazing which could/should have been cut for the sake of brevity and the reader’s sanity. It felt like Tartt was trying too hard to be smart and clever and life-changing. My eyes started glazing over towards the end.

The story is about a stolen valuable painting. Just hand the bloody painting back and stop all this agonising and soul-destroying angst. It just didn’t wash with me and I felt it was never really explained well enough as to why he thought he had the right to keep it.

What also didn’t wash was the mix of Theo’s sensitive and destructive sides. In the first half, I struggled with the believability of this really being the mind of a teenage boy, because he was incredibly clever and deep one minute, and the next a complete buffoon.

Some others also found the whole experience less than enjoyable, despite it winning the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2014. I really don’t understand how that happened. Not that I’m a literary critic, but wow … I’m shocked!

The characters of Welty and Hobie were wonderful, the rest you wouldn’t waste ten minutes on at a backyard barbecue. I did enjoy the random way Boris talked, I could hear his Ukrainian accent in my head, and clearly see him when he was raving on about 10 unrelated stories that somehow had a connection, so I tip my hat to Tartt in that regard.

But it’s really disappointing when you love an author’s debut novel and expect a similar reaction again. Tartt’s first, The Secret History, sucked me in hook, line and sinker. For me, The Goldfinch sucked; this book, it’s storyline, was a stinker.

May 21: Running around without raising a sweat

Today was an on-the-go kind of day – I should have worn my running shoes!

My phone died this morning (Leo says from overuse – can’t argue) so I borrowed the neighbours’ car to go to a nearby shopping centre with a phone store, hoping they could fix it. No luck – it’s been sent away for a week, like a naughty kid suspended from school – but at least I have my old phone to use in the meantime.

This is one time I’m glad I haven’t been a minimalist and gotten rid of the old phone as soon as the new one arrived. The old one feels like a brick in comparison, and the photo quality will be pretty average, but I’m contactable, which feels more important than it should be. I’ll carry my compact camera around in case I see Betsy and friends again.

Amazing things, cars. I even managed to do a grocery shop AND go to the nursery for more plants and soil. I wasn’t going to put planter boxes on the upstairs balcony but hey, I needed geraniums. It wouldn’t be a Swiss house without geraniums. I was trying to avoid conforming, because it seems like it’s compulsory to have planter boxes overflowing with red geraniums in Switzerland … so I chose pink ones instead. Still a rebel.

Couldn’t plant them this afternoon because it was raining so much, but hopefully I’ll do it on Saturday … if the weather gets any better. It was five degrees Celsius this morning, and 10 degrees at 3pm. Come back spring, we miss you already.

I really, really, really have lost my exercising mojo. I feel worn out, and I look it too, but really, I’m not worn out, I’m just being lazy. Which is a shame because the fitfor15in15 six-month mark isn’t too far away and I want to look and feel my best. (I blame the mammoth book, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, that I’m still reading. What a sorry sack that whole story is at the moment – it’s leaching into every pore).

So, banishing the book and with the halfway mark as my motivation, I’m off to do 15 minutes of squats with hand weights, push ups, sit ups, lunges and all that kind of malarkey.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

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Here’s Betsy’s hairy Scottish cousin, Beryl, who lives in the north of Switzerland

May 19: Feeling flat … and new nutrition guidelines

It’s amazing how the weather affects my moods. It’s raining, grey and the sky feels like it’s only a few feet off the ground. Do you feel weird when the weather’s less than appealing? Especially when it comes hot on the heels of a lovely day?

Of course, it could also have something to do with the book I’m currently reading, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I’m halfway through the story of Theo and it’s quite depressing – a life going, or possibly already gone, off the rails. Maybe I should listen to more of Cary Elwes’ audio book As You Wish, which is his behind the scenes account of the movie, The Princess Bride. I love that film – maybe I should watch it to lift my spirits!

I feel like I’m here, but not here. Know what I mean? I’ll snap out of it when the sun shines again, I’m sure.

My friend Sandra sent me this very funny article yesterday about living in a foreign country and trying to speak the language. Sandra has German, Swiss German, English and Spanish under her belt, so she’s on fire. I’m making limited progress with German and have really no idea what’s being talked about 40% of the time when I hear Swiss German, so I can totally relate to the problems in this story. I had a good laugh … and then gave a hefty sigh, because unfortunately it’s so damn true!

We finished season one of Luther last night, the BBC series starring Idris Elba. I’ve been told seasons two and three are better, thank goodness! That whole storyline with Alice was laughable.

Do you remember growing up seeing posters of the food pyramid (that put fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy and grains etc into a graphic) about how much we should eat? If not, have a search on the internet because there are a hundred versions. Actually, no don’t bother with the old one because the new one is more important. Here is Nutrition Australia’s new healthy eating food pyramid. What do you think about the new weightings for foods? Less grains (used to be the bottom layer) and more veggies seems smart, and there’s no section for treats anymore – is that achievable? Maybe only for the dedicated! It’s printed out and stuck on the fridge, as a friendly reminder.

The more research I do, the more I keep seeing/reading that diet is more important than exercise and maybe, just maybe, it’s slowly sinking in. There was definite success on the 5:2 Diet, about 2kgs in four weeks, but I hate counting calories. What a drag! I have to stop eating chips or chocolate biscuits as an after-dinner snack … and don’t get me started on the Berliners! I had just one on the Swiss Camino, on the horrid third day, walking on busy roads. (I suppose one benefit/problem of walking on a busy road is the shops!)

So tonight we’re having couscous with vegetables for dinner and I’ll make a vanilla chia seed pudding for breakfast. The fitfor15in15 exercise today will be 15 minutes of bedtime yoga – my butt injury isn’t fixed, so I’m taking it easy after yesterday’s 4km run.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

May 17: Mentally fit with a book

A very relaxing day with absolutely no exercise whatsoever. Well, I finished putting the new plants into the garden this morning (and promptly forgot to take photos) so that could be classified as exercise. Now there’s some colour behind the hedge, in the garden, on the outdoor table and a window box next to the front door.

The hammock had its first workout; I started Donna Tartt’s new book, The Goldfinch, and lay under the umbrella for a while before the cool breeze sent me back inside. There’s nothing like a swing in a hammock for relaxation I reckon, preferably under palm trees with a blue ocean and white sand close by, but hey, the forests of Wohlen bei Bern and that sensational fresh-cut grass come a close second.

I need to finish the Cary Elwes audio book too, I’ve been neglecting it a bit because his voice is just so jolly posh you can only handle so much of it for so long! If you’d like to see short reviews of the books I’ve read this year, click here. Unfortunately, I’m well behind on my goal of 52 books in 2015. Can it be salvaged? The Goldfinch is going to take me a while to get through – at 864 pages, I won’t be ripping through it in a few hours, like the past few books – so maybe I’ll have to choose some shorter ones to get back on track … is that cheating?!

We also started watching a new Netflix series, Luther, tonight. It’s about a London detective with many problems and some questionable techniques trying to do his job. I’ve been a fan of the main actor, Idris Elba, since he was in The Wire but so far the recurring storyline of series one has me shaking my head in disbelief. I only hope it gets better!

Still having small problems with my right butt cheek muscle, but it’s slowly feeling better and I hope I’m up for Monday Runday tomorrow!

Wishing you a wonderful day.

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Someone’s clever “rockwall” garden on the walk into Einsiedeln. It was high and long!