The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

I first read this novel over a year ago and absolutely fell in love with it. I would actively encourage everyone to read The Goldfinch, as well as Tartt’s other two novels, which are equally as good.  If you don’t fancy reading The Goldfinch but aren’t sure which novel to pick up next, have a look here for other book reviews.

Told in a retrospective first person narrative, Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch tells the tale of Theo Decker, a young boy whose life crumbles before the readers’ eyes when he loses his mother in an explosion in a local art gallery.
The reader witnesses the heartbreaking dislocation of the protagonist, both physically and emotionally, when he is sent to live with his deadbeat father in Vegas. The despair and emotion Theo experiences is presented in such a raw manner that it becomes difficult not to become emotionally invested in his tragic life. The reader becomes drawn into a series of tumultuous events and must watch helplessly as they witness Theo spiral out of control as he descends into adolescence.
During the chaos and panic following the aftermath of the explosion, young Theo takes something from the gallery and the consequences of these actions haunt him throughout the rest of the novel. To Theo, the stolen artefact provides him with his sole connection to his dead mother and he develops an obsession with it that is evident throughout the novel. The reader sees Theo long for this item during the times it is not in his possession and this yearning resonates with the longing he feels to be reunited with his mother and to regain the life that he lost on that fateful day at the art gallery.
The novel follows the journey of Theo through his troubled teenage years into an equally troubled adulthood; however, it also follows the journey of the stolen artefact as it passes through various hands until Theo regains its possession. Theo becomes mixed up with a dark world of art thieves and crime in a bid to retrieve the item he stole as a child and the harrowing tale of a grieving young boy is expertly merged with the plot of an action thriller, resulting in a gripping novel. The two plots of The Goldfinch are rich in detail and wonderfully entwined to create a beautifully written, exciting and emotionally charged thriller.
The Goldfinch is full of fascinating characters that weave their way in and out Theo’s life and the constant stream of dramatic events will keep you in suspense as you become desperate to discover whether adventure or disaster will be next to befall the protagonist.
Theo’s determination to be reunited with what he sees as his only link to true happiness, despite the odds being so against him, results in an outstanding story of survival. A true masterpiece.

Recently published on The Coffee House

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Don’t Be Rude About My Tattoos

As a tattooed woman, I frequently get people commenting on my skin. The majority of these comments are compliments, however, I get my fair share of negative, and often plain rude, comments regarding my body. Or should I say, the way that I have decided to modify my body with ink.
Let me just repeat that for you, ‘the ways that I HAVE DECIDED to modify MY BODY.’ First things first, I just want to emphasise that each person has their own body that they are entitled to do whatever they want with. Whether that means someone making the decision to shave their head, dress in clothing that goes against what is ‘appropriate’ for their gender or get covered head to toe in ink, that is their decision and, I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you but, it is just none of your freaking business.
Now, I understand that not everybody likes tattoos and piercings; however, I also understand that many people love them. There is a definite divide and, quite clearly, I fall into the latter category. Despite this divide amongst people, I have never gone up to a complete stranger and insulted them simply because they do not have tattoos and I don’t know anybody who has. It would seem that tattooed people are able to speak to strangers who are not tattooed without forming preconceived judgements about them. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that the same can be said for the way that some people who do not have tattoos judge those that have them.
On numerous occasions I have overheard strangers discussing my tattoos openly in front of me and, a couple of times, people have gone a step further than staring at me in disgust and have actually said very rude and mean things to me about them. These include telling me that they don’t like tattoos on women, (lol okay sexist), asking me how I managed to get a job, (luckily not all employers are as judgemental as they are), or telling me I am going to look horrendous when I’m older, (you know, because they are going to look amazing at 85 years old?), not to mention talking about how I have ruined my looks with my various tattoos and piercings, (I’m not even going to get started on this one).
Some people may say that I shouldn’t have got them if I wasn’t prepared for people to comment on them, however, I hardly think this is a valid justification for a person to be so rude, ignorant and judgemental. We all know that if you do not have anything nice to say then you should not say anything at all, therefore, by making mean comments about my body art then surely these people are simply demonstrating how much of an unpleasant person they are.
Fair enough, they do not like my tattoos; however, why must they insist on telling me that? I do not want to hear their opinions on how awful I look because, quite frankly, I think I look amazing and the opinion of a complete stranger is not going to change that. Telling me outdated beliefs about tattooed women belonging in the circus, (I could so do that job, by the way), is hardly going to induce an epiphany whereby I decide to laser off all of my beautiful, (which they are), tattoos. I have invested a lot of money and time into my tattoos and I love every single one of them. I am way past saving.

‘She was sort of asking for it, dressing in such slutty clothing’

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Often, when a woman is raped or sexually assaulted it is heavily implied that she is somehow to blame, or at least partly responsible, for the attack and the rapist’s behaviour.

Instead of focusing on the behaviour of the sexual predator and blaming them for their actions, the behaviour and physical appearance of the woman is picked apart and her body is regulated. It seems as though, rather than teaching people not to rape, society is more concerned with teaching women how to dress and behave in a manner that will not ‘provoke’ or ‘encourage’ sexual assault.

The comments shown in the image above came about in response to an image of a man who had been set on fire by the woman that he raped, (I wouldn’t normally condone violence but in this case I feel I can make an exception). These comments highlight just how disgustingly rape victims in our society are treated by transferring some of the ridiculous things that are regularly said to them to a different scenario.

My favourites include:

‘He was sort of asking for it, dressing in such flammable clothing’

‘He purchased a lighter earlier that day. Dude probably set himself on fire and lied about it. Typical’

‘We need to start educating people about wearing fire-safe clothing and carrying extinguishers with them at all times. For their own safety’

My Decision to Give up Meat

Recently I have been feeling increasingly guilty whenever I eat meat, yet, I continue to eat it. I call myself an animal lover and hate the thought of animals being mistreated; however, I still contribute to the cruel treatment of animals worldwide by buying into the so called necessity of the meat industry. I am a hypocrite.
Many moons ago, humans hunted and ate free roaming animals because they had limited options regarding their food sources. They did not have the option to pop into a supermarket on the way home from work or order a pizza for their evening meal; they had no choice but to hunt. Over the years, the way in which we access food has changed and so has the way that we farm animals. Vast amounts of animals are now bred in captivity each year with the sole purpose of being slaughtered for human consumption. These poor animals are subjected to cruel and violent treatment just so our taste buds can be satisfied. Once the animals have been slaughtered, their flesh is pumped full of antibiotics in a bid to stop it from rotting on our supermarket shelves. Sounds tasty, right?
Many horror films are based around the idea of humans being hunted and murdered. The characters doing the hunting and murdering are portrayed as unhinged lunatics because they think that it is perfectly acceptable to treat other humans in this way. The characters being hunted are absolutely terrified and the audience cannot help but feel outraged and scared for them. I must admit, the thought of being hunted myself freaks me out so why do I condone this treatment of animals? Many people attempt to justify it by talking about the food chain or how we are more intelligent than the creatures that we eat, however, I don’t personally believe that humans are superior to any animal. In fact, I think humans are actually pretty stupid, so I don’t really buy into this justification for our double standards or hypocritical ways.
I often tell myself that I eat meat because I’m already restricted in terms of food as I can’t eat products containing gluten and that I need protein because of the amount of weight training that I do. However, these are just excuses. I know my way around a kitchen and I’m fairly educated in terms of nutrition, therefore, I know for a fact there are a multitude of other protein sources I can eat instead of meat and I can be pretty creative in terms of how I cook them. My excuses are no longer excusing me. I can no longer justify my choice to eat meat; therefore, I simply will not be eating it anymore.