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Saturday, 14 August 2010


Goldfinger, the seventh in Ian Fleming's series is at odds with the earlier books in that there is a thread of fatalism running through the entire prose. Bond is depressed at the start of the book, contemplating his most recent case which left a nasty taste in his mouth and death-watch beetle in his soul.

"What an extraordinary difference there was between a body full of person and a body that was empty! Now there is someone, now there is no one."

This first chapter goes into great detail to outline Bond's involvement breaking a drug smuggling ring. Heroin has recently been made illegal in Britain which results in a booming illicit trade. Prohibition, Fleming points out, is the trigger of crime.

Bond perks up slightly when he meets up with Junius Du Pont, a minor character from Casino Royale, who remembers Bond as a superb card player. Du Pont is convinced he is being cheated by a man called Auric Goldfinger, but he can't for the life of him figure out how the man is performing his slight of hand. Cards are, of course, a passion with Bond and so the agent agrees to look into the matter. Fleming's ability to turn something like a card game into a suspenseful tour de force is amazing; later he will perform the same trick with a game of golf.

Like Moonraker before it, Goldfinger is something of a slower paced Bond adventure but great care is taken over characterisation, which results in a compelling read even if it doesn't display as much of the Fleming Rush as the earlier books. Much more of Bond's little character traits are brought out - for instance he hates tea and considers it partly responsible for the decline of the British Empire. Bond refers to the drink as a cup of mud and would much prefer coffee. It is little inconsequential things like this that make Fleming such a joy to read.

The film of the book was fairly faithful though there is one major difference - in the book Goldfinger is planning to rob Fort Knox while in the film the scheme is to explode a dirty bomb in the gold vaults thus rendering all the gold useless and pushing up the value of Goldfinger's own stash. This is perhaps one of the few times when the plot of the film actually improved on the book. That's not to say Goldfinger is weaker than the film because overall it is better, but then that's a personal opinion and I always consider books to be superior to films made from them. Books offer a much more intimate involvement with the storyline than any movie could ever hope to match.

The golf game between Goldfinger and Bond for instance was excellent in the film but in the book Fleming's eye for detail and expert eye for creating suspense make the scene absolutely wonderful.

The sexuality of Bond is also brought to the fore in this book and Bond has incidents with three girls throughout the space of the narrative, even if one of them does manage to resist his charms. The sexual tension is built up to boiling point. Fleming has also started to use gadgets more dramatically and there are several added extras in Bond's Aston Martin - though nowhere near as many as in the film.

Many have said that Goldfinger is weak in comparison to the earlier novels but I'm not sure if I agree with that. It's most certainly over-long but for the most part the story zings along with Fleming's customary full throttle plotting.

Goldfinger is also another good Bond novel to start with for anyone new to the books but familiar with the film series, since the movie was surprisingly faithful.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've only recently read this one and loved it. Great series by the way and I look forward to you covering the non Fleming Bond novels. Tim