Review: Goldfinger by Ian Fleming

Goldfinger: James Bond Series 7

Goldfinger was the first Bond novel I read during the summer of between my sophomore and junior years of high school when I got really into the Bond canon. It was a summer when I checked out a LOT of Bond novels from the library, reading them in random order based on the movie titles and which ones I wanted to see.

The last impression I took away from my teenage reading a)that the movie was fairly faithful to the book and b)boy the differences between the book and the movie sure were interesting. For example, did you know in the book that Pussy Galore plays for the other team?!? Well, at least that is until she crosses paths with James Bond and he works the old Bond magic on her!

It was this last tidbit of trivia that I liked to throw into conversation from time to time when it came to discussing the James Bond books and movies.

Alas, this wasn’t necessarily something that came up all that often, so I rarely got to utilize this bit of trivia as much as I might have wanted to.

And so it was that a couple of decades later, I decided to return to Goldfinger. But this time instead of reading the book, I’d give the audio novel a listen. Part of the reasoning went back to the fact that the book and movie are so similar in the basic plot that I could easily listen to it while working out and not be too worried about missing a pertinent plot twist or detail. And part of it was that I wanted to have my impression of the book be more than — holy cow, did you know Pussy Galore played for the other team until she met James Bond?!?

The novel is broken down into three sections — and three run-ins between Goldfinger and Bond. Fleming makes the novel a bit more a slow burn and a battle of wills between these two rivals. Watching Bond try to ingratiate himself to Goldfinger takes a bit more effort and cunning in the novel and there are some interesting passages in the story that differ from what we see on-screen. One encounter finds Bond left alone in Goldfinger’s house and snooping around a bit, only to discover that Goldfinger has left surveillance devices around and will surely know that Bond has been up to something. Bond works to short out the machinery and drive his adversary crazy — taken great pleasure in knowing that he’s besting Goldfinger once again. It all adds up to the tension and drama once Goldfinger pulls the rug out from under Bond and has the super spy in his clutches.

What struck me on visiting the novel again is that the novel really has some fascinating differences from the filmed version. The events in the novel take a bit longer to unfold than they seem to do in the movie. And Bond’s initial encounter with Goldfinger at the luxury hotel is a bit different — and not just the card game played between the men. In the movie, it’s bridge and in the novel it’s canasta. Fleming brings the card game scenes to life in a way a movie can’t and he also makes the car chase scenes in the middle of the book stand out a bit more.

If you’re asking me which is better, I’m not sure I can tell you. I enjoy both version of the story. Reading the novel always makes me want to dust off the Blu-Ray and watch it again. And then sit back and let my inner book snob point out all the ways it got it right by the book and all the things that were just a bit different.

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