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 22 July 2015
Maybe it is just me but I agree with all the one star reviews on here. I read this as a book club book and had no preconceptions. I wasted my time reading this. Kept reading in the hope it improved, but it didn't. Everybody is different as can be seen by these reviews, but I hated it. It seemed as though she had sat down and just had no plan and roamed all over trying to keep it together. Suddenly we lose 7 years, why? Could have lost the whole book, it would not have mattered. It seemed so stilted and did not grab the emotions at all. Cannot think what the other books must have been like if this won a Pulitzer prize!
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 2 January 2015
I really do not understand the hype for this book. There were some beautifully written parts but the author seemed to try to squeeze a number of storylines into one. It could have been halved at least. A real shame because the basis of the book was wonderful but sadly was hidden in nothing short of a marathon slog to get to the end.
on 5 March 2015
I love her original stories and characters, but this is just way too long, and indulgent. Someone needs to edit it down.
The premise is so unusual, it grabs your imagination, but she lost me in her long winded descriptions, and rambling chapters.
on 1 May 2016
Why do we purchase books of fiction? A little escapism, a little distraction, a little curiosity, a little love for the craft of the written word, but mostly...to be entertained.
What do we look for in a writer? A talented wordsmith, someone with a strong, unique voice, someone who can tell a tale.
After reading this I can confirm that Donna Tartt is clearly an EXTREMELY talented wordsmith. She definitely has a strong and unique voice, and yes, absolutely she can tell a tale. Unfortunately, she can also over tell the tale.
Overall, the story is good, interesting (at times), quite original and has the occasional interesting character. Others, while not so interesting, have a very real feel about them. Where it goes wrong however is the over description of the protagonists feelings, in particular towards his drug use. Personally I have no interest in people who are foolish enough to mess with drugs, nor do I care for their whiney excuses to justify their stupidity. Not because I'm cold hearted but because I have experienced enough harsh realities in my own life to know it is very possible to survive such hardships without throwing yourself into substance abuse. As such, when reading a book where a character dabbles with drugs, while I will feel no pity for them, nor an inclination to empathise with their folly, I will put up with the story arc if the overall tale requires traversing such a murky plothole to justify reaching a satisfactory conclusion. Sadly, I found Ms Tartt's over infatuation with drug abuse mind numbingly boring and felt it completely eroded what might have been an otherwise enjoyable read.
It seemed that each time the story got interesting, the pace wound right back down to wallow once more in the antagonists narcotic exploits or self pitying nature, making the main character, Theodore Decker, a wholly unpleasant, unlikeable lead. So he suffered a trauma and lost his mother at a young age, big whoopedy doo! Get over it and get on with things you whiny little git!
Time and again, I found myself ready to put it down and leave it as a lost cause, but then each time, the story would pick up a bit and with a sigh of relief I would continue in the hope that it would now show me why so many literary agents and reviewers had been harping on about The Goldfinch, then each time it wind right back down as Theodore would once more wander off down a boring path of self pity and self abuse. Somehow I managed to stay with it till the very end but I have to say I just scanned the last 6% of the book as I was doggedly determined to see it to the end for no other reason than to justify the time I had spent/wasted on it. Let me tell you, those last few pages were nothing but pretentious waffle.
The end result, despite a good story as its foundation, the whole thing was ruined by over indulging the drug abuse angle and over describing the surroundings. I do not need half a paragraph to get that the sky was overcast and grey, for example.
This book won several awards, including the Pulitzer! The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton also won several awards, including The Man Booker Prize. What both of these books have in common is that I purchased both thinking they must be one hell of an entertaining read to win such accolades. And yet, both of them were huge, over descriptive, pretentious, boring, piles of waffle. The Goldfinch was marginally better I suppose as I was unable to finish The Luminaries due to the fact I feared my eyeballs were about to bleed.
Isn't it about time these "distinguished" awards stopped nominating books purely on how well written they are, and also consider the possibility that they should also be ENTERTAINING? I will never again trust the moniker "award winning book".
I must admit I approached Donna Tartt’s latest novel with a good deal of trepidation. After all, this was my most anticipated (new) novel ever (even surpassing the 'latest’ Auster or Roth) – in the wake of two masterpieces could she pull it off again? I’m pleased to say that, though (for me) The Goldfinch does not quite live up to the levels of focused and immersive characterisation of The Secret History or The Little Friend, its greater levels of ambition (and 'epicness’) are (almost) fully realised.
Once again, Tartt’s prose and storytelling ability are confirmed (in my book) as second to none amongst modern authors. She turns the 'coming of age’ tale of 13-year old Theo Decker and his early family bereavement (and purloining of 17th century Dutch artist Carel Fabritius’ eponymous artwork) into an, admittedly, at times, rather meandering, but by turns thrilling, touching and philosophical voyage through loneliness, parenthood, unrequited love, friendship, superficiality, sin and spirituality, whose scope is Dickensian in its expansiveness. And, although the page-turning compulsiveness of The Goldfinch’s first 200 or so pages has waned slightly by the time Tartt 'jump-cuts’ her story eight years forward, she has managed (once again) to deliver some deliciously (and increasingly) compelling characterisations – not least her central pairing of the sensitive Theo and his alter-ego, the care-free 'Russian’ Boris, together with mother and son, the ultimately kind Mrs Barbour and eccentric Andy (whose family provide refuge to Theo), kindly 'antiques dealer’ Hobie and Theo’s 'secret love’, Pippa (links to Great Expectations, maybe?).
And just when you might have thought that Tartt’s relatively restrained conclusion might result in her tale rather petering out, she ties up her 'loose ends’ (linking Theo’s outlook on life with Fabritius’ painting) with as poignant and profound an ending as I’ve read in ages. Here’s to the next decade of waiting for Tartt to put 'pen to paper’ again.
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'.
I was somewhat apprehensive about reading this book. Firstly, it weighs a ton and secondly, the premise sounded far more odd than compelling: a boy named Theo loses his mother and steals a (real) painting on the same day. Hmm. However almost immediately I was hooked, its length became my friend and I was picking it up at every opportunity to read even a few pages.
Why did I love it so? The writing. The story - let's be honest - is interesting but in the hands of a lesser writer could easily have been forgettable. The characters - with a couple of notable exceptions - are fairly unpleasant. They lie, they swear, they steal, they take far too many drugs and they make terrible decisions. And yes, it probably could have been shorter. There is one section in Las Vegas that seems to go a terribly long time. Still loved it though.
This is a book that feels like every line has been crafted with care and thought and then honed so perfectly that it never interrupts the pace of the reader. Descriptions like: "They were a paid of white mice I thought - only Kitsey was a spun-sugar, fairy-princess mouse whereas Andy was more the kind of luckless, anemic, pet-shop mouse you might feed to your boa constrictor." (Poor Andy was still my favourite character). It takes you right inside Theo's mind. When he grieves for his mother you feel that acute visceral pain along with him. When he's attending a party in a drunken blur, you share the numbness. When you've finished this book, you will feel like you lived his life along with him.