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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A return to form
The Secret History is one of my favourite books, and like much of Donna Tart's fan-base I was disappointed with The Little Friend.

The Goldfinch however is a return to form.

I don't know whether Donna Tart was searching for the formula that made The Secret History such a success, but there are similarities between the two books. The Secret History...
Published 1 month ago by AT Clarke

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Tedious beyond belief
The readership seems to divide into those who rave about this book and those who find it tedious beyond belief. I am firmly in the latter group and agree wholeheartedly with everyone mystified by the plaudits. There are whole paragraphs, whole pages, whole episodes of padding that could - and should - have been excised. As reviewer number one thousand four hundred and...
Published 1 day ago by A. W. Macfarlane


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A return to form, 4 Aug 2014
By 
AT Clarke - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Goldfinch (Kindle Edition)
The Secret History is one of my favourite books, and like much of Donna Tart's fan-base I was disappointed with The Little Friend.

The Goldfinch however is a return to form.

I don't know whether Donna Tart was searching for the formula that made The Secret History such a success, but there are similarities between the two books. The Secret History had a sense of class isolation, an outsider looking in on a world he didn't belong to - and there are elements of that theme in the new book.

The book is laced with questions about the human condition as lead character struggles to overcome a major tragedy in his childhood. I thought the character development was excellent - the book spans over a decade - and you get a great feel for the person he has become and the choices he has made.

Overall I found this book to be truly excellent, the characters and story stayed with me for weeks after finishing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Why the controversy?, 14 Aug 2014
By 
M. READ (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Goldfinch (Kindle Edition)
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
life.
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80 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliance and paradox, 13 April 2014
This review is from: The Goldfinch (Paperback)
Rarely these days does one find a writer brave enough to confront so unflinchingly the desperateness of the human condition in the 21st century. But Donna Tartt is such a writer and it is this which raises her novel The Goldfinch to the highest level of art. The protagonist Theo Decker has been compared to Pip in Great Expectations but the reality is that this is a far darker tale than Dickens' novel.

Dickens shines a light on the bleakness and wickedness at the heart of 19th century British industrial society but in his novels there is always the conviction that good and right will triumph in the end. This was still a Christian world he was writing about after all and his Victorian audience expected a happy ending even if the reality did not quite live up to it.

But the amoral world Theo Decker inhabits following the death of his mother in a terrorist attack in New York, is a world of unrelieved bleakness where there are no certainties any more. Once on the road to corruption through drugs, deception, stealing and dishonesty there is no way back. Without a family to offer some sort of protection or relief, Theo has absolutely no hope in a society which is fundamentally corrupt at every level.

From the well observed social workers whose job is to process Theo through the care system, to the wealthy Barbour family with their coolly efficient lifestyle, concealing fundamental psychological flaws, Donna Tartt paints a picture of quiet desperation where there is no longer any possibility of finding anything that resembles home ever again. It's a picture of alienation and as such utterly convincing. Only with Hobie the antique restorer and Welty's niece Pippa does Theo find a temporary bolt hole where he can genuinely relax.

But the narrative takes on a darker aspect altogether when Theo's unreliable alcoholic father turns up finally with his new girlfriend Xandra and they move to the outskirts of Las Vegas to a life of gambling, baccarat, drinking and cocaine. It's here that Theo meets Boris, a dissolute but entertaining Ukrainian with a similarly unreliable and violent father, who has lived in Australia. Together they dabble in everything, Vodka, beer, drunken swimming, shoplifting, drugs and sex.

There is a point in this novel when you think, so.. is this simply a rites of passage novel, the move from childhood to adulthood by way of drugs and alienation? Is Theo finally bound to settle for the inevitable dull mediocre future of adult life with its nine to five cycle, chained to the capitalist machine for a lifetime? I mean, what else can there be now? What can there be after you've done everything else, except to end up as a carbon copy of your hopeless father?

But here's the surprise. No. No. That's not it. It's worse. So bad in fact that ultimately there seems to be no way back. Even Theo sees this in the end.

But then just to confound the reader even more, there's a twist. Just when you believe things can't possibly get any worse, the enigma of The Goldfinch,the painting by Fabritius which Theo stole from the museum, works its own magic. The paradox is that hope springs out of paradox. This is the nature of art and love and all greatness.

Donna Tartt writes with the cool eye of the observer standing just far enough away to see clearly. But I defy you not to be moved by The Goldfinch and its finally hopeful message.
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494 of 554 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical, 24 Oct 2013
This review is from: The Goldfinch (Hardcover)
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Tedious beyond belief, 18 Sep 2014
By 
A. W. Macfarlane (Anglesey, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Goldfinch (Paperback)
The readership seems to divide into those who rave about this book and those who find it tedious beyond belief. I am firmly in the latter group and agree wholeheartedly with everyone mystified by the plaudits. There are whole paragraphs, whole pages, whole episodes of padding that could - and should - have been excised. As reviewer number one thousand four hundred and something, I am not going to go into depth - just look at all the other one-star reviews - but I am afraid I was bored rigid by the endless humdrum conversations (is there a vogue for this kind of dialogue in US literature at the moment?) and totally uninterested in any of the unsympathetic characters. There are whole swathes of the book where nothing of any particular significance happens; one feels one is treading water for page after page after page. What on earth possessed the author not to put it in a drawer and then re-read it six months down the line, red pen in hand? Maybe it was in gestation too long and she just wanted to get to the end of it. I finally got there myself, mostly in the hope that it would get better. Which I'm afraid it doesn't.
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62 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Goldfinch, 13 Dec 2013
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Goldfinch (Kindle Edition)
I discovered Donna Tartt through The Secret History and, although I enjoyed The Little Friend, I didn't feel it was in the same league as her debut. So, I approached this novel with some trepidation but, I am delighted to say, it was unnecessary. This is a masterpiece - in fact, it may well end up considered her greatest work. A huge, sweeping novel, which takes you on a roller coaster ride, doesn't let up for a minute, and has a breathtaking ending.

Theo Decker is a young boy when we meet him, who lives with his mother in an apartment block in New York. His father has left and his greatest worry at that point is that he has been suspended from school. On his way to a meeting with his headteacher, Theo and his mother visit an art gallery and his life changes forever. A bomb explodes and Theo is unable to find his mother. Instead, he finds an injured, elderly man, who he had seen before wandering the gallery with a young girl. Before dying, the man gives Theo a ring and he also takes a painting - The Goldfinch, a masterpiece painted in the 1600's. That whole scene is like a dreamscape, as Theo emerges onto the street almost unnoticed and returns home. However, he cannot remain alone forever and, before long, social workers emerge on the scene. From that moment on, Theo is shuttled from place to place. He spends time at the home of a school friend, visits the antique shop of the man he saw in the gallery and finds his business partner, James Hobart 'Hobie' and meets the girl, Pippa, is reclaimed by his estranged father, befriends another lost soul, Boris, at his new home in LA, before returning to New York. Throughout his travels, Theo is neglected, often lonely, always feels an outsider and, although he fears discovery, clings to the painting that he took that day. It is meaningless to say more - this is a huge book and you will need to give it your time and attention, but it will reward you amply. A stunning achievement and possibly the best book of the year.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A promising start but ultimately a broken promise!, 24 Aug 2014
This review is from: The Goldfinch (Kindle Edition)
The structure and pace of the novel is very uneven making it appear as though it has been written at widely different times and under differing circumstances. Hardly surprising given a decade long gestation.
At the start of the novel the portrayal of the main character, the description of the terrorist explosion which kills his mother, and his feelings at his loss are accurate, perceptive and well written. There are other short sections where the author achieves a similar level of understanding and description. Unfortunately however most of the rest of the novel is overshadowed by endless and pointless descriptions, an immature desire to show-off her knowledge / research of drug culture, the antiques "trade" etc. all in a convoluted style of writing.
The thin storyline is one of bleak self-destructiveness and misery with few characters, most of whom are cyphers, having any redeeming features. Most appear to have no moral compass and it is difficult to have any sympathy for them as they make little or no effort to rectify this deficiency.
It is yet another book that I failed to finish; after some 600 pages the tedium simply became too much and it is difficult to believe that anything much would change in the last quarter of the novel.
Overall the book is self-indulgent, repetitive and pretentious. It is way too long and should have been the severely edited before publication. Final verdict - poor and hardly worth the effort.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Like sugar gives you a rush, but can also, at times, be too much, 31 Aug 2014
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This review is from: The Goldfinch (Kindle Edition)
I really liked ‘The Goldfinch’, but I didn’t absolutely love it. Actually, until about half way through I was loving it, but after that, although I liked it, and always felt engaged in it and by it, to be honest, I sometimes felt as though I was trying to get through it, rather than really appreciating all of it.
I imagine that every other reader, like me, would have loved to be Ms Tartt’s editor, with the power and influence to highlight long passages for removal. And although I’m certainly not one of those readers who counts the number of pages, and seems upset by long books, I think cutting it would have made it a better read. There were sections which, for me, bordered on tedious.
However, I totally disagree with those ‘critics’ who lament the fact that it won the Pulitzer prize, and debate whether it is great fiction. Of course it is. Unlike many of the dozens of books I read in a year, ‘The Goldfinch’ will stay with me for a long time: it has many wonderful and amazing characters who are brilliantly drawn; it inspired me to do some research about some of the artwork it mentioned, and has moved me enough to write a review – and that doesn’t happen often!
Apart from the characterisation, and the vividness of the descriptions, I also really appreciated much of the form of the novel. For example, I loved the fact that during the very first scene, which originally remains unexplained, Theo’s mother appears to him in a dream while he’s holed up in a hotel in Amsterdam, and this is described again towards the end of the story – showing us that the story, we the readers, and our understanding, have come full circle. In fact, I would have loved it even more if the second time it had used exactly the same words. As it was, it had me scrabbling with my Kindle, trying to compare the half-remembered description.
I also disagree with those reviews I’ve read which want more closure on what happened to the characters, rather than the painting. Although I didn’t much care for the tone in the final chapter, rounding up Theo’s philosophy on life, I did feel that we got enough information about the future of the characters. I’m sure that the wonderful Holbie will be fine. The ending of Boris is likely to be unsavoury, so best not to know about it; while Theo himself has always been a ‘flawed’ character, compounded by the trauma of his mother’s death, so he will probably continue to have ups and downs throughout his life.
The only real problem I had with this fine book was the basic premise that the guilt of having the painting was so over-bearing for Theo, that he couldn’t move on with his life in any satisfactory way. I know it was probably only an excuse, and he was suffering from a kind of dislocation from life, and was traumatised, but why didn’t he just put on a hoodie as disguise and drop the painting off in a gallery, a police station , a church or somewhere? I got so frustrated, while he was expostulating about being so guilt-ridden that it was ruining his life, I was shouting at the book – ‘well just get rid of the … thing.’ Then I realised that this couldn’t happen because, had he done so, we wouldn’t have had the pleasure of reading this book in this form. It would have been far shorter, much less satisfying – and I, for one, don’t like short stories!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally absorbing, 29 Jun 2014
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This review is from: The Goldfinch (Kindle Edition)
Just lost three days of my life and gained a whole new perspective on the World... I feel like I've lived in another realm. Donna Tartt... Thank you.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A waste of time, 4 Sep 2014
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This review is from: The Goldfinch (Kindle Edition)
Incredibly long winded and tedious,depressing in the extreme. One of the few books I had to make myself finish.
Miserable in the extreme.
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