Goldfinger by Ian Fleming | Retromash
My James Bond Challenge continues with Goldfinger, the seventh Bond novel written by Ian Fleming, published in 1959.
I have to say I am thoroughly enjoying all these novels. Fleming is really impressing me as a writer, in terms of his actual descriptions. It’s interesting that he also really mixes things up in terms of plot structure, from book to book. I was very eager to read this one as Goldfinger has always been my favourite Bond movie. As ever, my book review style is just a brain dump of my thoughts and comments whilst going through the book.
- Like most of the movies, this book opens with a ‘cold open’. Interesting one here, with Bond remembering how he killed a man last night. I always like hearing about the darker side of Bond in these novels.
- There’s a nice callback to Casino Royale, with the Baccarat player recognising him. And it’s interesting that Bond is developing a habit for stumbling upon millionaire megalomaniacs rather than always just getting assignments from HQ.
- Bond has three double Bourbons in the first few pages. I do like his style.
- Initially this book has shades of Moonraker. Bond is trying to work out how and why a millionaire is cheating at cards.
- p51 – “Colonel Smithers looked exactly like someone who would be called Colonel Smithers.” Great line.
- p52 – “Bond sat back. He was prepared to listen to anyone who was master of his subject, any subject.” I like this aspect of Bond. He respects knowledge and he can listen to anyone when he needs to.
- p63 – Nice that Bond is starting to get some proper toys from Q Branch. Bond picks an enhanced Aston Martin DBIII. I love how the car tastes were kept for the films.
- When Bond and Goldfinger meet at the golf club, I would have thought that Goldfinger would be livid with Bond, after he ruined his card game earlier.
- Interesting to read that Goldfinger adopts the new putting style like croquet. I don’t remember him doing that in the film. I wonder if Fleming means something like the chest or chin anchoring technique that many people adopted in the 90s (such as Sam Torrance) and I believe got banned around 2016. Or if it was different, front-facing croquet style then I wonder how long that style lasted.
- p80 – I love Bond’s jibe about asking Goldfinger how his agoraphobia is whilst playing golf. He’s really trying to wind him up.
- 100 pages in and the book seems to be extremely close to what I remember of the film in terms of the card game with binoculars and the golf game.
- p111 – Goldfinger says, “Have you ever heard of Karate? No?” Apparently Oddjob is one of only three men in the world who has a black belt? This just surprises me. I’m guessing Karate was quite new to the West in the late 50s. To say that Oddjob is one of only three people in the world have black belts is odd, but I guess it is for effect, for readers who might not know better.
- The Annigoni portrait of the Queen is mentioned again, just like in From Russia, with Love. It really must have been a famous painting of the day.
- p145 – I absolutely loved Bond’s automatic reaction to jump head first across the desk at Goldfinger.
- p146 – “Bond pulled the curtains tight across the ghastly peepshow of his imagination and listened.” Another great line.
- The painting women with gold is the same as the movie.
- It’s interesting that Goldfinger knows hypnotism.
- p150 – Bond is quite submissive and accepting during the torture scene. And it’s a sawblade, not a laser as it is in the film.
- p163 – Cool to see all the gangsters’ names and gangs, including Pussy Galore.
- p166 – Interesting about Pussy Galore’s gang. She was a trapeze artist and her gang members were all lesbians.
- p170 – Useful that Goldfinger clarifies the definition of ‘one billion’, due to their being different definitions in the US and Europe.
- Another great chapter name – ‘Crime de le Crime’!
- p172 – The term ‘he-man’ is used! It’s just not really a term you hear being used much.
- Interesting that Pussy Galore is just another gangster just now. Not a main henchwoman of Goldfinger’s.
- p173 – I love that a map is used in the book. Very Tolkien.
- p189 – Interesting little monologue by Fleming about ‘pansies’. At a push you could perhaps be surprised that in some ways the context sounds quite aware for the 50s, highlighting that it was recognised that there were people back then whose chromosomes were closer to the other sex, and might identify more with the other gender, when a lot of us might think that it wasn’t even recognised back in those days at all. But Fleming calls them ‘pansies’ and pities them, which shows us what his attitude actually was. A lot of the attitudes towards homosexuals in this book really aren’t easy reading today.
- The golf section is quite long! Play by play account. Very detailed analysis of the golf shots.
- Tilly’s death kind of seems brushed over.
- p207 – Bond meets the US President!
- p209 – The American army had used crying babes as part of their ‘play action’? That wouldn’t be allowed today!
- p218 – Very erotice CPR! “He unbuttoned her jacket and put his hand against her warm breast. He… knelt astride her. For five minutes he pumped rhythmically at her lungs. When she began to moan…”
- p221 – Bond gets a whisky, but the ‘pretty girl’ is only offered a cup of tea?
- p222 – So does Bond convert her from being a lesbian? Wow, the power of his libido. I don’t like how this last bit is written though. “Bond said firmly, ‘Lock that door, Pussy, take off that sweater and come into bed…’ She did as she was told, like an obedient child… His mouth came ruthlessly down on hers.” All a bit forceful, alpha male and there a couple of ‘child’ references. Not Fleming’s best-written love scene. And I believe this is actually Fleming’s third Bond girl that is written with a rape backstory, after Tiffany Case and Honeychile Rider, if I remember correctly. But in all cases Bond is the one that manages to make them totally get over it? Even when he ruthlessly kisses them? Hmmm. Not loving that to be honest.
- p222 – Pretty horrible definition of what a virgin in the South is. .
- Later notes – I wrote these notes down from earlier although I’m not quite sure what part of the book they are referencing. I would have to re-read the book to get the context again!
- I’m not quite sure how the building fell on Bond when he jumped on Goldfinger.
- After reading the book through I was struck that earlier it was VERY lucky that Bond survived his near death when captured, and that Goldfinger actually offered him a job.
I really enjoyed a lot about this book, but it didn’t quite grab me as much as the others overall. I thoroughly enjoyed the strong character of Goldfinger and also the banter between him and Bond. Great to read. And I kind of liked the elaborate plan at the end, but I just felt like too many bits really didn’t make sense, or were just a bit slow, and also the casual or not so casual racism and homophobia were slightly harder to palette in this book.
Current ranking and scoring out of 10
Moonraker – 9
Dr. No – 9
From Russia, with Love – 9
Casino Royale – 8.5
Goldfinger – 7.5
Live and Let Die – 7
Diamonds are Forever – 6.5