There's no doubt that Donna Tartt is a good writer. She has a lovely way with words and expertly manages every scene, conjuring vivid and effective images. In fact, 50% of this book would make a five star novel. The problem is that it's diluted by the other 50%, which is irrelevant padding. Good, well written, padding - but padding nonetheless. It starts very strongly, with an initial chapter set in the 'present' of the story where the protagonist (Theo) is hiding out in Amsterdam in mysterious circumstances. Then it flashes back to the terrorist explosion that changed the course of Theo's life as a thirteen year old boy. The description of the explosion and the weeks following it is extremely strong, powerful writing and makes an excellent start.
But it then loses its way somewhat, with a very long interlude describing Theo's misspent youth in the Las Vegas desert. Again, it's well written in itself, but by the end I was beginning to wonder where the story was going. I vaguely knew it was building towards the interesting-sounding scenario in chapter 1, but it was so long I could barely remember what that had described. I felt rather lost, and the subsequent section - again well written - still didn't give much structure. It does get there in the end, and with plenty of flashes of brilliance along the way, but it just takes way too long.
I liked the character of Theo, he's an interesting but ultimately sympathetic character even though I didn't entirely like some of his behaviour. There were some other well drawn characters too, and the descriptive writing is very good. The underlying idea for the story - the core plot - is a reasonable idea but it just gets lost and bogged down in the rather futile machinations of Theo's love life and the endless descriptions of the drugs he takes and alcohol he drinks. There's nothing more dull and dispiriting than reading about the miserable existence of someone addicted to drugs and booze, and the after effects of them. We really don't need as much of it as there is in this book. One good powerful description would be enough, and we can then simply imagine it repeated over and over again across the years.
There's also too much philosophising and angsting. Some people might find the descriptions of art and furniture also overdone, although I actually found these interesting despite often not enjoying lengthy passages on things like that. It's such a shame, because Tartt proves on almost every page that what she actually writes is good - it's just someone needed to ruthlessly edit it down by about half. I must admit to feeling relieved when I finally got to the end, which I wouldn't normally with a book of this underlying quality.
If you enjoy literary writing and don't mind a slowish plot, you will almost certainly love this novel. If you don't have patience with lengthy diversions then you might have to give it a miss. There's no doubt it's a good novel, it's just a question of whether you can sit through all the waffling to uncover the gems that lie within. I'll still look forward to Tartt's next novel, but I just hope she can rein in the length and not let her plot get lost.
I can't call this a review but it's more about the experience I had reading this book. It isn't a short, superficial read this book is quite long and complex and involves you at many levels. I read no other books whilst reading this and although I get through most books in a few days, it took me a week to read this as I had to absorb bits of it and take breaks to think about what I read. The emotions and feelings evoked as you embark on the journey Donna Tartt takes you on through the eyes of Theo Decker is a roller-coaster.
From the young Theo from the fist page of the first chapter through adolescence and to adulthood, Tartt binds you to her main protagonist and you become so involved you want to know what happens to Theo. However, there is no rushing the journey and somehow you realise you become to care about Theo and what happens to him.
There are long passages dealing with the history of art and antiquities which may not appeal to the interest of some readers but I think the underlying story is strong enough to hold your attention. After living with this book and the characters within for a week I can honestly say no book has drawn me in so deep this year.
If you are looking for an action packed high octane read then this probably won't be for you but if you are willing to be taken on a journey that has it's own pace then this book is one you need to read. Whether you love art or don't I think this book asks some eloquent questions about art and beauty without skimping on action and thrills.
on 25 January 2015
I have finally finished this substantial book (it was our choice of novel for our book club) and have wondered why I spent/wasted so much of my time reading this tome - life's just too short. Perhaps I missed the point of the novel but confronted with page after interminable page of drug taking, mental confusion, obsessive behaviour and a Thomas Hardy pessimism that "if it is likely to go wrong it probably will" I willed myself to complete the 800 odd pages with a grim determination. I don't like "giving up" on a book but this one pushed me to the very edge.
on 26 August 2014
I can't remember a book I enjoyed more. I was quite bereft when I reached the end, as I realised that I would no longer be able to delve into the lives of Theo, Boris, Hobie and Pippa. Ms Tartt writes beautifully and although it may sound like a contradiction, as the novel is quite long - sparely. Every word is there for a reason. In short, I loved it. Have bought it for my mum and have recommended it to many others. Thanks Ms Tartt for a book I will remember for the rest of my life.
on 14 August 2014
Coming a bit late to the party here, I read the novel aware of most of the views expressed, and the deep divisions between reviewers--the majority hailing it as a masterpiece, while a few dissenters slam it. Far be it from me to challenge the professionals, but I think the qualities and faults are pretty clear. No-one surely can deny the charm of Tartt's style, or her ability to set up an intriguing situation (the qualities which made 'The Secret History' so popular). But the problem with an intriguing set-up is that it tends to promise more than it can deliver-- I felt this even with 'The Secret History', which I loved. Here, the last 100 pages are a bit of a mess (maybe that's going slightly too far-- let's say complex and convoluted without enough depth to balance them). But in terms of a reader's pleasure there are whole stretches that are outstanding--for me, particularly the Las Vegas section. Since my taste is always for a novel that tries to do too much rather than too little, I can't help warming even to the excesses. Yes, editors could have taken the scissors to it--but I think they would have taken its heart away--its sense of the richness and complexity of
on 26 July 2015
When I read that blurb I thought that it would lean more towards the criminal underworld than anything, and focus on more of the action side of things. But, if anything, this book is more to do with symbolism and mental stability than anything else, and is a lot deeper than I previously thought.
This book follows Theo Decker, who survives a bombing at a museum that claims the life of his mother, but from it he takes two obsessions: a painting of a chained goldfinch which his mother loves, and a young girl who survived the explosion too, but not without consequences. This book follows every part of his life after the accident, from staying with his rich friend, to moving to Vegas with his gambler father and his girlfriend where he makes a lifelong friend, and his return to New York where he becomes a more shady business dealer, and all the while his two obsessions are with him. He also suffers with PTSD, but this is not the main point in this book – I don’t think. I believe it is his unhealthy need to continue owning the Goldfinch which he stole from the museum on the day of his mother’s death, and his even unhealthier longing for his mother.
Whilst this is such an amazingly written book, I feel like I lost something somewhere in the eight hundred and sixty something pages. This is one of those books where there is an obvious message, and somehow, even with the last chapter where he fully explains it, I still continue to feel like I missed something. I don’t know whether it was because of my poor concentration or the writing, but I feel like it was somehow a waste of time.
No, I do not regret reading this, even though after the first six or seven hundred pages it was a struggle to read. I just feel like I was let down, that I missed the oh so important message which would make me re-think everything. What made up for this was the utterly brilliant character development I saw with every character in the book. They all fitted as if they were real, with real issues and they all changed in the way that everyone does as they grow. They descriptions were also beautiful, and I like the not-so-happy ending, which, while not sad was not something that fits into a Disney movie.
Overall I do recommend this book to anyone willing to put a lot of time and energy into reading it. I was only able to put so much in, but I think that if you get the message, which I didn’t, it would change this book completely for you, and it would go from a three to a five.
on 22 August 2015
I wanted to love this book. I did, I truly did. Especially after it being recommended to me by so many people. But there is very little I actually liked about it at all. I never got on board with Theo, the self-obsessed scrounging layabout he is, and none of the other characters apart from Hobie particularly had anything appealing about them. I ploughed on and on hoping I would have some kind of 'moment' that enamoured me to it, but in reality reading this was the longest 2 weeks ever and almost put me off reading for a while there.
There is no doubt that Tartt has a way with words, she can describe things every now and again that are wrapped up in so many apt words that you can really feel the sentiment, but unfortunately these odd sentences and paragraphs were wrapped up in thousands of other pointless, directionless words for me which just took me nowhere. The plot was rambling, far fetched and really struggled to keep me on course until I skim read the last 200 pages.
I hope this is a one off as The Secret History is on my must read list,however I think I will give it a while before I attempt that. I feel the need to go and read something mindless now just to recover from the hard labour this has put me through.
on 29 August 2014
This book was a bit of a struggle to get through, compared to 'The Secret History' (which is wonderful), it was very slow and i hate to say it, boring, in places. The first few chapters are wonderful and gripped me straight away, and I couldn't wait to read on, but as the story went on, I became frustrated and started to dislike Theo. There are some parts of the book I think everyone should read, it is beautifully written, but i'm not sure i would recommend it as a 'must read'.
on 24 October 2013
This is a tough book to review without gushing and without giving away too much of the story. I am going to gush, because in this instance I can't help it, but I'm going to try to avoid giving away too much of the story, because many of the great delights of The Goldfinch come from that rare experience of reading for pleasure: turning the pages to see what happens next, and losing yourself in this world of someone's creation. So try to know as little about this book as you can before you start to read it. The Goldfinch is a novel of many wonderful surprises, whether it's the introduction of both major or minor characters, or plot twists I really never expected, or unexpected shifts of scenery. (And whoa! One change in location in particular is a masterclass in dramatic handling, artfully rendered and most purposefully done.)
But gush isn't enough, so let me just say this: if you're a fan of Harry Potter or Pinocchio or The Wizard of Oz, if you've enjoyed Truman Capote, Jack Kerouac or J.D. Salinger, or Huckleberry Finn or Walt Whitman, if you've had fun with Breaking Bad or Six Feet Under, if you can imagine Dickensian epics retold for the era of global capital and sprinkled with a dose of Buddhist sentiment, if you love the old masters of Dutch painting, if you love dogs, if you love little birds, if you've loved either of Donna Tartt's other novels, if you live for great storytelling, if you think that art can change the world and that we can love unquestioningly (deep breath) ... if any of the above apply to you in any way, there is a good chance that you might like or even (like me) love this book and be totally wrapped in its embrace.
The ending of the book just soars. It moved me to tears.
The Goldfinch is epic, and it's ambitious. The many fantastic reviews are warranted. It takes risks, and they worked magically for me. Books as pleasurable as this are rare events. Yes, I'm gushing.
on 3 August 2014
I really enjoyed this book at the start, couldn't put it down. However, somewhere along the way, about the time the main character moved to Las Vegas I became disheartened with the story, a bit long winded, repetitive and drawn out. By page 600 I was over it but battled on until the end and was also disappointed with that. Perhaps I am not into art enough for this book but all in all this book was not for me!