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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 16 September 2014
The Secret History was so beautifully written that I read slowly in order to prolong it. Donna Tart just writes so fantastically well that I started the Goldfinch thinking I was in for another tremendous treat.
However, now that I am in three quarters of the way through I find I just cannot read anymore. Almost all the characters are just horrible apart from Hobie and I just do not want to read anymore about the self destruction of Theo. After having a terrible start to life, and an appalling stage with his neglectful and ghastly father - he finally gets on the road to happiness but falls down heavily in to a spiral of misery. I just cannot read anymore of this depressing story tho I think Donna Tart writes divinely.
on 11 March 2015
I very much enjoyed 'The Secret History', I have a copy of 'The Little Friend' which I really must read (!) but have read 'The Goldfinch'. I was interested to read other reviews because I had mixed feelings about this one. It is a very long book, but that doesn't matter because for my Donna Tartt will always be about the writing and not about the plot. The plot is as it is, it is interesting enough, one doesn't really care about any of the characters; the only character Tartt makes us care about is a pet dog. None of the characters are particularly likeable. There are a couple of characters who are a bit one-dimensional, but in general the plot rolls along and is enjoyable.
What I am always astonished by in Donna Tartt's writing itself. The beginning of the book is quite incredible. The aftermath of an explosion, which comes as a complete surprise (you know something is going to happen, Tartt takes you this way and that anticipating it but it still comes as a surprise) is stupendous. Tartt has a wonderful way of writing about confusion, shock, and high adrenaline stuff - like in 'The Secret History' where the character runs through the night - and takes us brilliantly into the mind of the main character at that point. After this, there is a long section where the character is living in Las Vegas, where nothing happens, there is just desert, sand, and constant sunshine beating down day after day. Many reviews have complained about the length of this section but for me it was the best part of the book, as the endless narrative and the nothingness of the activity just captured the mood of this part of the novel; it was fantastically languid. For me this felt like a narrative device rather than Tartt trying to fill pages. The book moves on well, but towards the end we get a bit of a diatribe on the nature of life, art, the universe and everything, which I could have done without.