11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
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.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
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.
108 of 119 people found the following review helpful
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
32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 25 March 2015
I bought this book because of the rave reviews. Just like all the reviewers quoted on the cover, I read a book about a boy and a painting called the Goldfinch. But it was very clever to give the reviewers a different book to the one I read, for that is where the similarity ended. Mostly boring, occasionally nearly interesting, but never Superb, Dazzling or a Triumph. I kept reading in the hope that I would eventually get to the 'point', but sad to say I reached the end on page 864 without ever find out what the 'point' was. Like other reviewers, I found some of he characterisations laboured and inconsistent. But at least I now know never again to read a prizewinning novel. They may be great for literature academics to flex their analytical skills, but I am not an academic and read for pleasure. There was none to be found here. Or maybe I'm just a Philistine.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 26 February 2015
Roger Ebert said “No good movie is too long and no bad movie is short enough.” Well I guess something similar could be said of books. Opinion is well divided on this one. I’m in the minority here. It didn’t engage me. I had no expectations. Just started reading it but it just didn’t flow, it was slow and cumbersome. It annoyed me. I don’t care that it was a long book. All the better if I had found it enjoyable. I managed to get to about page 350 before I gave up. I ended up reading the plot summary on wiki just to see how it ended. I don’t see the point of talking about character development etc. etc. Either it works for you or it doesn’t. And it seems to have worked for plenty of folk. But not for me. You will just have to judge as best you can from the free sample that amazon gives you before you take the plunge and part with your hard earned cash. I’ll end with another quote – from Little Big Man – Old Lodge Skins says “Well, sometimes the magic works. Sometimes it doesn’t.”
548 of 618 people found the following review helpful
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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
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.