Top Ten Bucket List of Must Reads

10 must reads

10 must reads

This was a tough one!  Not because I struggled to find 10, but rather more that I struggled to keep it down to so few!  I have tried to mix it up a little: some modern, some not so with a view to keeping heavier books such as Ulysses by James Joyce out of the list (although still a jolly good read).  So here goes.  I thoroughly recommend the following “Top Ten Bucket List of Must Reads

  1. Tears in The Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  2. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
  3. Cider House Rules by John Irving
  4. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  5. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  6. Ancient Evenings by Normal Mailer
  7. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
  8. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  9. Lolita by Vladamir Nabokov
  10. Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

I totally expect that you have read most of these but maybe one or two that you haven’t!  Enjoy, my friends and followers and remember to ‘LIKE’ my Satinpaperbacks FB page, after all, Paulo Coelho did!!

Have a great weekend one and all!

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt with Book Club Discussion Notes

Pulitzer Prize Winner 2014 for Fiction

This is Donna’s first book in eleven years, although previously scheduled for release in 2008, and her third award winning book. Early reviews from the US have praised the novel, with the trade publications Kirkus and Booklist both giving starred reviews. Kirkus describes The Goldfinch as “a standout”  while Booklist comments “Drenched in sensory detail, infused with Theo’s churning thoughts and feelings, sparked by nimble dialogue, and propelled by escalating cosmic angst and thriller action, Tartt’s trenchant, defiant, engrossing, and rocketing novel conducts a grand inquiry into the mystery and sorrow of survival, beauty and obsession, and the promise of art.” Stephen King has also admired the novel writing “Donna Tartt is an amazingly good writer … it’s very good”

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love-and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

The Goldfinch is a novel of shocking narrative energy and power. It combines unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and breath taking suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher’s calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is a beautiful, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.

12 Point Book Club Discussion Notes

1. Donna Tartt has said that the Goldfinch painting was the “guiding spirit” of the book. How so—what do you think she meant? What—or what all—does the painting represent in the novel?

2. David Copperfield famously says in the first line of Dickens’s book,

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will beheld by anybody else, these pages must show.

Because of the many comparisons made between Dickens’s work and The Goldfinch, that same question could rightfully be asked by Theo Decker. What do you think—is Theo the “hero” of his own life? What, in fact, does it mean to be the “hero” of a novel?

3. Tartt has said that “reading’s no good unless it’s fun.”

The one quality I look for in books (and it’s very hard to find), but I love that childhood quality of gleeful, greedy reading, can’t-get-enough-of-it, what’s-happening-to-these-people, the breathless kind of turning of the pages. That’s what I want in a book.

In other words, a good book should propel readers from page to page, in part because they care about the characters. Has Tartt accomplished that in The Goldfinch? Did you find yourself rapidly turning the pages to find find out what happens to the characters? Does the story engage you? And do you care about the characters? If so, which ones?

4. How convincingly does Tartt write about Theo’s grief and his survival guilt? Talk about the ways Theo manifests the depth of his loss and his sense of desolation?

5. What do you think of Andy’s family: especially Andy himself and Mrs. Barbour? Are we meant to like the family? Is Mrs. Barbour pleased or resentful  about having to take Theo in. What about the family as it appears later in the book when Theo re-enters its life? Were you surprised at Mrs. Barbour’s reaction to seeing Theo again?

6. Talk about the ways in which the numerous adults at his school try—to no avail, as it turns out—to help Theo work through his grief. If you were one of the grown-ups in Theo’s life, what would you do or say differently to him. Is there anything that can be said?

7. Many reviewers have remarked on Boris as the most inventive and vividly portrayed character in the book. How do you feel? Are you as taken with him as both Theo and book reviewers are? Talk about his influence over Theo—was it for better for worse?

8. Readers are obviously meant to find Theo’s father negligent and irresponsible, a  reprobate. Are you able to identify any redeeming quality in him? What about his girlfriend?

9. Talk about Hobie and how Tartt uses his wood working and restoration as a symbol of his relationship to Theo. How does Theo disappoint him…and why? Theo fears he will, or already has, become like his father. Has he?

10. Tartt asks us to consider whether or not our world is orderly, whether events follow a pattern (which could indicate an underlying meaning), or whether everything that happens is simply random—like the explosion that killed Theo’s mother. What does Theo’s father believe…and what does Theo believe? Do Theo’s views by the end of the story?

11. The book also ponders beauty and art. Why is art so important to the human soul? What are its consolations…and what are its dangers? In what ways can we allow ourselves to be trapped by art or beauty? And HOW does this relate to the Goldfinch, the painting at the heart of this story— a painting of a bird chained to its perch and a painting that Theo clings to for 14 years.

12. What do you think the future holds for Theo? Why do you think Tartt left the book’s conclusion open as to whether he will end up with Pippa or Kitsy?

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

It’s the most extraordinary thing and it happened when I was least expecting it.  A writer has emerged from Australia with all the poetry and beauty in her words that her country exudes by the bucket full.

Burial Rites

Burial Rites

An unlikely topic in which to find such eloquence and beauteous flow, but it is here in the subject of the last application of Capital Punishment that took place in Iceland on January 12, 1830 that Hannah Kent has chosen to launch her debut novel.

The story is centred on the convict Agnes Magnúsdóttir, a farmhand and Friðrik Sigurðsson, a farmer’s son from Katadalur.  Together they were convicted of the crime of murdering two men and for this; they were executed by beheading.

Grim must have been Hannah’s days as she researched the details of the execution methods most commonly used, such as burning at the stake, beheading and drowning.  She would have delved into archives that in shivering detail would have described how men were more commonly beheaded or hung.  That, supposedly-wayward women were lowered into the river directly next to the Law Rock itself with ropes, to either freeze to death or drown.  Because Agnes was accused of killing her lover Nathan, the question of the choice of her execution hangs in the air like frozen stalactites; sharp as a hanging dagger, unanswered and so failing to plunge into the darkness and shatter the peace.

The structure is inspired.  Agnes talks to you in the first person but the other characters in this gripping tale are written in the third person.  The resulting affect is that you can feel, see and hear everything from all sides, all around you.  Her skill is to be admired and thoroughly applauded.  But more than this, it is the very words she uses that bring you to Agnes’ very soul in torment:

“The sagas I know by heart.  I am sinking all I have left and going underwater.  If I speak, it will be in bubbles of air. They will not be able to keep my words for themselves. They will see the whore, the madwoman, the murderess, the female dripping blood into the grass and laughing with her mouth choked with dirt.  They will say ‘Agnes’ and see the spider, the witch caught in the webbing of her own fateful weaving.  They might see the lambs circled by ravens, bleating for a lost mother.  But they will not see me.  I will not be there”.

If you read anything this year then please, read this.  Its hard subject is dealt with so sensitively and with such nurturing care that you will feel as if you are the one gifted with Agnes’ lost life and smile as you greet your day.