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Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch is Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime

I loved Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.  I found it in a charity shop, when I was an impoverished student, and brand new books were an unimaginable luxury.  I had hankered after it even though I only had a vague idea what it was about.  I knew it was regarded as intellectual and a good read, and that was enough for me.

It felt like a lot of the school stories I had left behind in childhood, not too long before.  The group of students, discovering the world, with their sometimes brash, sometimes insecure personalities, thinking that they knew all about the world, as young people sometimes do.  But it quickly became something darker and more riveting.  Intellectualism went out of the window as the Greek references all passed over my head.  I was too busy with the excitement of the story to notice.

It was also long.  And when it came out, I saw that The Goldfinch was also long, over 800 pages (OMG just proof read and originally I wrote “words”! If only a bestselling novel were that easy to write).  And much as I liked The Secret History, I have a pile of 11 books waiting for me, two of which are Anna Karenina and In Search of Lost Time.

I like to think that I know my limits.

I certainly know that I was delighted that such a hot new title was going to be Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime for the next two weeks.  Time saving bargain of the century!

The first installment last night was just as riveting as I’d hoped.  In this installment, thirteen year old Theo’s single-parent mother goes missing.  The text follows his anxieties and his desires, but also plays on our adult knowledge of what Theo is poignantly innocent of; the dread of a child being drawn into “the system”, with no-one to be their advocate.

I was a bit worried as to whether I could really appreciate a whole long, complex book in a mere 10 x 15 minute chunks.  For example, the much shorter (but arguably no less complex) Things Fall Apart was condensed down to the same number of slots.  But so far the intensity of the story line has blown those worries out of my mind.

If you too want to save 800 pages of your life, the web page is here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b03dfwvz/Book_at_Bedtime_The_Goldfinch_Tiny_Yellow_Bird_Faint_beneath_a_Veil_of_Dust/

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11 Comments

  1. I’m not sure about the whole audiobooks thing! I have a friend that coped with her long commute each day by burning through audiobooks in the car but I’ve never come around to the idea. I’m afraid my mind will wander off.

    That said, it’s pretty fantastic that you get to ‘read’ this one while still being able to make it through the pile that’s still waiting for you!

    • I’ve got a friend whose macular degeneration means that even reading one book is pretty tiring BUT she still doesn’t like audio books even when they are the less tiring choice. She says they are just not the same.

  2. Oh my gosh!!! I JUST bought The Secret History!! This is such a happy coincidence :D It came highly recommended by one of my creative writing profs!

      • It’s going okay XD I really enjoy it, but I can’t say I’m a great writer. I do it for the fun of it and not the marks anyway, so I don’t mind :)

  3. I’ve never read any of Donna Tartt’s books, mainly because they are so long! This is the perfect solution – we do love a bit of time saving ;-)

  4. I tried audio books with mum but discovered that if the reader was a well known voice she was hooked. Might get to listen to this and make my own mind up.

    • I did audio books with the kids – great for car journeys and in those days they would hardly ever read actual books. Sometimes you got a narrator with a really irritating voice! Which was annoying!

  5. Sounds great. I didn’t know the BBC presented audiobooks online! I must check it out. I think I’d find that book hard-going though. Anything to do with children becoming parentless I find very heart-wrenching.

    • I’m reading A Tale for the Time Being which is heart wrenching for slightly different reasons. If there’s one thing worse than parentless children, it’s parents whose uselessness makes their children’s lives a misery.
      You do get some excellent Books at Bedtime, but often they are things I have not heard of. This is the first I have listened to for ages – it really jumped out at me for being so current.

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