Never have I been so conflicted about a book Parts of it I loved Parts of it I hated Sometimes I wanted to praise it Other times I wanted to abandon it I m relieved I ve finally finished this novel 771 pages Good grief because I can stop debating whether or not to keep reading it.It s difficult to talk about The Goldfinch without being spoiler y, but I shall try What I appreciated most was the lovely prose some sections are truly beautiful Donna Tartt can write an arresting paragraph, to be sure Here is one that gave me pause I don t care what anyone says or how often or winningly they say it no one will ever, ever be able to persuade me that life is some awesome, rewarding treat Because, here s the truth life is catastrophe The basic fact of existence of walking around trying to feed ourselves and find friends and whatever else we do is catastrophe Forget all this ridiculous Our Town nonsense everyone talks the miracle of a newborn babe, the joy of one simple blossom, Life You Are Too Wonderful To Grasp, c For me and I ll keep repeating it doggedly till I die, till I fall over on my ungrateful nihilistic face and am too weak to say it better never born, than born into this cesspool So, yeah, this book is depressing The story opens with a young boy, Theo, surviving a terrorist bombing in a museum, but his mother died and he feels responsible Meanwhile, Theo steals a famous painting, one that shows a goldfinch chained to a perch, because his mother had loved the painting and he wanted to keep it safe For the rest of the novel, the fate of the painting hangs in the balance Theo agonizes over how and when to return it, and what crime he ll face Eventually he ends up in the art underworld, caught in a complex scam The Goldfinch by Carel FabritiusSo the plot is rich and detailed, but my complaint was with the characters I didn t like Theo, or his dad, or his dad s girlfriend, or his friend Boris, or Boris girlfriend, etc And Theo makes so many bad choices throughout the novel that it was difficult for me to care about what happened to him Spending than 700 pages without caring about the main character was a bit punishing And yet I kept reading It s like I was that poor goldfinch chained to the book There was also too much written about repairing furniture, and WAY too much coverage of Theo s drug and alcohol abuse I understand that he had post traumatic stress disorder and that he was anxious and fearful, but I didn t need to read dozens of pages on how drunk and high he was I don t think this novel had anything new to say about altered realities or making dumb decisions when you re bombed.While reading, I frequently made comparisons to Tom Wolfe s Bonfire of the Vanities, a similarly long novel with an unlikable main character who gets caught in a dark web Bonfire was considered the book that defined the 80s decade, and it seems like Goldfinch is poised to be the book that defines the post 9 11 era I m glad I ve read it, but I m even glad I m done with it.Update January 2014I finished this book about two weeks ago and when I talk about it with other readers, my most salient feeling is how anxious it made me I was anxious about the painting I was worried about Theo s survival Boris and his kamikaze behavior made me jittery The section in Amsterdam made me so uneasy I had to skim to get through it I say this as a caution to other readers This book is not a carefree or an easy read You have been warned.Update February 2015It s been a year since I read The Goldfinch, and every time I see a copy of this book, I shudder I cannot think of another novel I ve read that made me feel relieved to have finished it I have heard friends say they had to abandon this book because it made them too anxious Can you suffer PTSD from a book If so, this one caused it. The Goldfinch is a brilliant story with memorable characters and most of the book is incredibly well done and fun to read Most being the operative word.Tartt needed an editor to cut out a lot of the repetitive detail Like several other reviewers, I too found myself page skimming sometimes the detail is fascinating, oftentimes it s unnecessary and just slows down the story There are a few other nits a good editor could have fixed, e.g the internet makes cameo appearances but it s inconsistent characters will make use of it in the way people do in 2013 but then later in the same scene they seem to forget it exists and there s much of the latter than the former Tartt recently did an interview with the New York Times where she admits to only using the web to look up phone numbers and her unfamiliarity is pretty evident, which is a problem in a novel whose main protagonists are 20somethings , a number of key plot points are telegraphed way in advance in a manner that feels heavy handed than than skillful, there are minor but critical unexplained plot points e.g why Theo s mother never considered leaving his father whose omission seems curious in a novel that goes into such minute detail about everything else And then of course there are the adult Theo s relationships with women, all of which seem overly chaste and prim and bloodless especially compared to his relationship with Boris even when he professes otherwise.There s a lot of Great Expectations in this novel I can t imagine it s coincidence that one of the main characters is called Pippa and Tartt frequently uses Dickens beloved device of the happy coincidence to move the plot forward Usually Tartt makes the device work, but there are other times where the plot twists seem plucked from a forgettable TV movie of the week.The final chapter could also have used some heavier editing philosophizing is a great way to end Theo s story, but the chapter just drags on forever, like a well meaning guest who won t stop saying goodbye.I gave it 4 stars because it s a really masterful story and the fairy tale quality makes it markedly different from so much of modern fiction I just wish the editors would have had a heavier hand. I have not read Tartt s two previous, and by most accounts, superior novels In The Goldfinch you can see that the talent is there but something is drastically off in the storytelling The book drags and drags It exasperates with unnecessary detail that calls annoyed attention to a critical lack of credibility throughout The narrator is like one of those panhandlers who stop you on the street and provides too long a story about some travail my mom and I were just mugged they took her to the hospital and I need to get to New Jersey to tell my dad who s deaf but first I have to get to the hospital which is like a thirty minute cab ride away in Brooklyn and she needs this medication that was in her purse which got stolen but I didn t get a chance to tell the EMTs about so I have to find a Duane Reade and get the prescription filled which costs about fifteen dollars if you could just help me out with part of it I ll pay you back like tomorrow I have my address and phone number written down here I am really embarrassed and would never ever ask a stranger for help like this but this was our first ever trip to New York City and we never thought anything like this still happened but They are telling you so much because they want than the average panhandler, not quarters or a buck but a ten or twenty They hope the detail dazzles or distracts However the they tell you the you know it s all a lie The extra details only betray.In The Goldfinch the betraying detail is in things large and small Theo, the narrator, notices and remembers everything but no one else seems capable of noticing anything in the moment even when it s their job to As a reader you are left wondering, for example, would a teenager struggling in shock through a scene of devastation have noticed and remembered fourteen years later the names on office doors as he is trying to find his way out of a bombed building You never believe that Theo could have left the museum without anyone noticing him, but he has to So an immense amount of detail is added to provide a masking confusion But if he was in the building long enough following the explosion for emergency personnel to arrive, begin rescue efforts, and then leave the building because of fear of another bomb, would there have been a door within the cordoned off perimeter that didn t have police and emergency workers watching it Reduced to a plot line everything in the story can be made plausible transformed into 771 pages of excessive description and your skepticism is teased and taunted from the beginning and at every turn of the page.A book this long needs to be put down frequently you are at your stop on the subway, it s time to move a load of laundry from the washer to the dryer, time for a meal or bed Only once did I put The Goldfinch down with regret that I couldn t continue reading Every other time I was relieved At page 100, 200, and even at page 700 I wasn t sure I was going to continue reading until the end This isn t to say the Tartt can t craft a sentence, isn t well read or a capable researcher, or smart as a whip She can and is But in execution this is tied for the most tedious and disappointing reading experience in 2013 The Goldfinch is the story of a stolen painting and a lost boy and the many bad decisions he makes, influenced by bad genetics and the bad example of his father, by the trauma of violence of the worst kind, and several kinds of dislocation At no point does Tartt convince you that Theo is something other than a poorly realized grand idea and that the plot, character and actions are than an academic exercise The novel has been called Dickensian in its marketing campaign and by some critics It has also made The New York Times s list of five best works of fiction in 2013 Both facts baffle me beyond words. Audible OH MY GAWD Who ARE you people giving this 5 star raves I m not even half way yet and I m wondering if I will be able to weather this ridiculously long book that keeps getting sidetracked by just about every teenage pothole you can think of And can we talk about motherless orphans I ve lost track of how many motherless main characters are in this book How can I be this far out of touch with other reviewers Halfway thru now Spending lots of energy trying to be less harsh and trying to enjoy the ride tartt is taking me on But I am not succeeding This book is utter ridiculousness Not believable at ALL and this morning my friend informed me it was named Book of the Year I m speechless Three quarters done Bottom line Theo has become a very unlikeable guy The pages and pages of minutia detail often building intrigue and suspense are pointless and often left unresolved Reading this book reminds me of watching the tv show Lost You think MAN I wonder how they are going to explain that polar bear Only to wait four years and find out that they never do Oh My Gosh I just finished The ending does not disappoint What a diaphanous extravaganza of words Of lists Of never ending stream of consciousness pompoonery Yes I made that word up It s the merging of pompous and tom foolery Is Tartt serious Can she really be seriously presenting up this book with a straight face The ending is Utterly astonishingly perfectly awful If you are reading this and wondering if you should finish the book Yes Do it Then report back here I need the company Update on 4 1 14After 400 comments to this review that was never meant for any purpose other than my own entertainment so that I might remember the book, I feel the need to add the following To anyone wondering if they should still read this book, since reviewers are so divided eg you either LOVE it or HATE it by all means, YES Read it But if you find you are hating it within 100 pages, just put it down and walk away Because it won t ever get better for you Really do as I say and not as I do Put It Down For those who LOVE this book Good for you I am truly happy for you There is nothing better than a book you love Now move along, because the 9 pages of comments here are for those who don t and will just make you mad. Theo Decker s mother is killed in a bombing that rocks the Metropolitan Museum of Art Theo, unharmed, escapes with a valuable painting called The Goldfinch He carries this symbol of grief and loss from early adolescence into an adulthood fraught with danger and beset by addiction The long middle sequence, set in a housing development on the seedy, sand blown outskirts of Las Vegas, is a standout Tartt proves that the Dickensian novel expansive and bursting with incident is alive and well. I, Boris, character in this book will give you honest opinion Very honest If you are reading this, asking yourself, should I read this book which is 771 pages Very heavy, not that The Idiot was not 656 pages, so not length I am afraid of If you are wondering, should I read I answer for you already and say no I am one of best things in book, at least not all the time moody, gloomy and so stupid I do not not even look in package Even though I am very important character I must tell you, not worth your time to read this Okay to read beginning, some middle, end but if was me, better to be having a pop than all the time reading about depressed guy who wastes so many good drugs Bad things happen All the time bad things Does not mean cannot enjoy life Does not mean should make many people spend very much money on depressing book Not to say is not masterpiece to some people but why spend money on this misery Cannot all own masterpiece Potter think he is only one lose mother In book we none of us have mother Does not take 771 pages to figure this out I would maybe read this if just 400 pages, as long as there would not be such long stretches without me Potter needs me all the time Not good without me His one girl, Pippa, is smart not to let him make her into mother If I was my good friend Theodore Decker and could not enjoy life at all I would do better job at killing self Also honest opinion on how they say everyone is reading this book If I tell you jump off cliff, you do it Many times I drag Potter from middle of road where he claims to be waiting for car Did I tell him lie in street No So I tell you Only good thing can come from reading this book maybe not even need to finish is lots to talk about with people Much discussion Maybe if book from library or stolen worth it But to buy own heavy copy Could not even drop in canal without Dutch police all over you Is better this way Trust me. not to call myself out but I m at the point in my life where reading books before the movie comes out qualifies as being productive As I read the reviews I am fascinated by the fact that I agree with aspects of many of them, whether they rate the book one, two, three, or even four stars Even the positive reviews point out the very many flaws I suppose it all comes down to what you are willing to tolerate in a novel I found Tartt s writing to be at times quite lovely, but I got the feeling she is a little too enad with her own skill I am surprised to see the novel described as dense It was very, very unnecessarily, in my opinion long, but it was the opposite of dense More like bloated with lots of pretty fluff When Theo is making his again, long and mysteriously uninterrupted way out of the Met in the beginning, I knew right away I was in for a severely under edited read, and suspension of disbelief of inordinate proportions would be called upon.I am not a reader who must like or identify with the main character, or even any of them, but I do require them to at least be interesting or representative of a larger idea in some way, if not, then I at least want to be able to root for them Here, I found the characters unlikable except for Hobie and Pippa, but they just fade in and out and with no real emotional resonance Theo s mourning for his mother in particular, felt vaguely like a lovesick teenager s rendition of grief in a creative writing class His relationships with women are so shallow and unconvincing as to suggest that he is deeply closeted But with his lecturing at the end pursuing what your heart desires, etc , I would think he would come clean on this point if that were the case.Even the discussion of the eponymous painting is lacking It s as if the author didn t bother to research the piece does she not know that Google exists All the muddled philosophizing at the end left me unimpressed In the end it was, in the words of Bart Simpson, just a bunch of stuff that happened A long, mostly tedious read with very little or no payoff.If you are like me and finish a book you start no matter what, I would seriously give the reviews here a read before committing to it. 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 ArtAs 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 Dangerous Circle The Goldfinch Combines Vivid Characters, Mesmerizing Language, And Suspense, While Plumbing With A Philosopher S Calm The Deepest Mysteries Of Love, Identity, And Art It Is An Old Fashioned Story Of Loss And Obsession, Survival And Self Invention, And The Ruthless Machinations Of Fate This was a huge disappointment for me The opening New York sections were excellent, the description of the museum bombing and the whole Mansfield Park thing Tartt has going with Theo and the Barbour family, all of this works beautifully I was excited to keep on reading to see where it all ended up, but once things move to Las Vegas the story takes a seriously wrong turn I seem to be a minority opinion here, but there you have it I do remember sitting up all night in 1992 reading The Secret History But this is something elseI have to wonder for whom Tartt thinks she s writing Does she really imagine that intelligent adult readers are going to be enthralled with hundreds of pages detailing the antics of a pair of burned out druggie teenagers who spend their time smoking weed, swilling vodka, and dining on packets of sugar and whatever junk food delicacies they can boost from the local supermarket Well, perhaps they will, the book is on the NYT besteller list But once all the hype and interviews die downwho knows The comparisons to Dickens are particularly inappropriate Dickens wrote about orphans and other unfortunates who are on the receiving end of undeserved bad luck, but his characters struggle against degradation and dissipation Poor little Joe the crossing sweeper sleeps in Tom All Alone s because he has no other choice But here Theo and Boris revel in their squalor and dissipation Boris is the kind of character who seems to exist only in books and movies the burn out loser druggie who is failing all his classes in school but is really a secret genius who reads Dostoevsky and Thoreau in his rare sober and lucid moments Yeahright I ve been to high school Burn outs are burn outs.Nor is there any hint of Dickens rollicking and life affirming humor in the book In fact there is no humor of any kind whatsoever at least not as far as I read Not a drop of wit No one even cracks a halfway decent dirty joke.And then there is Theo s father, an inveterate gambler deep into the loan sharks, and his aging sexpot girlfriend Xandraboth potentially interesting characters, except they are presented in one dimensional terms throughout their stay in the novel, and really exist for no other purpose than to end up the way they do at least in the case of Theo s dad Wasted opportunity Too bad I gave up halfway though the book There is just such an incredible ugliness about all or almost all of the characters that I found I didn t care a damn what happened to them and certainly didn t want to spend any time with them The ironic part is that Tartt is an incredible writer, a master of descriptive prose, attentive to detail and able to create a truly believable world on the page Too bad it s such a rotten world.
Donna Tartt is an American writer who received critical acclaim for her first two novels, The Secret History and The Little Friend, which have been translated into thirty languages Tartt was the 2003 winner of the WH Smith Literary Award for The Little Friend Her novel The Goldfinch won the Pulitzer Prize in 2014 The daughter of Don and Taylor Tartt, she was born in Greenwood, Mississippi but r
- 771 pages
- The Goldfinch
- Donna Tartt
- 23 March 2019 Donna Tartt