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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Why the controversy?
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...
Published 3 months ago by M. READ

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written very depressing
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...
Published 2 months ago by owlet


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47 of 48 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
(REAL NAME)   
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unputdownable, 18 Sep 2014
By 
Mrs. N. Greer - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Goldfinch (Kindle Edition)
What a ride! Just when you think you know where the avenue is leading, or where it can possibly go from here, a massive switch and corner and off we go again. As soon as I finished I wanted to start it over again,this time from a 'knowing what happens' perspective. Stunning
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written very depressing, 16 Sep 2014
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This review is from: The Goldfinch (Kindle Edition)
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.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Strong minded editor needed, 24 Aug 2014
By 
Graham Winyard (Winchester, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Goldfinch (Kindle Edition)
This book was a major disapointment. It could have been a good thriller if reduced by several hundred words.
The writing is good but not nearly good enough to justify the endlessly detailed descriptions of journies, real and pharmaceutical. Time reading this was not well spent.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unputdownable, 19 Oct 2014
By 
S. Shamma "Suad" (Abu Dhabi, UAE) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Goldfinch (Paperback)
OK. All right. I'm going to do this. I'm actually going to attempt reviewing this book in a way that does not give too much way, but somewhat conveys how I felt about it.

For starters, allow me to just say, this book is the reason I've been so behind on all my reviews. I've been putting it off for so long that I just had to sit down and go for it. So here it goes.

The Goldfinch...what can be said about 700+ pages of beautiful prose, and deranged plot?

Set in New York, Las Vegas, New York, Amsterdam, and finally New York, Donna Tartt definitely takes you on a ride that never seems to slow down long enough for you to catch your breath. And this makes an interesting point so I'm going to start with that - i.e. setting.

Tartt is very gifted in depicting the place she is writing about, her descriptions breathe life into her words that you cannot help but yearn to be there (New York of course), or feel repelled by the place and dry empty vastness of it (Las Vegas). The setting is also very symbolic of the events taking place in the story - the hustle and bustle of New York city, the traffic, the crowds, the weather, the parks, and bakeries and friendly doormen all play a part in illustrating what Theo is feeling and going through. Whereas Las Vegas, with its torrid, sweltering, endless desert illustrates Theo's sense of loss and confusion and his efforts of escaping in that space. Trying to disappear, to get lost, to remain unconscious and as hazy as that horizon.

For my part, I love New York city, I love any and all stories set in New York. Naturally, I therefore enjoyed the parts set in New York a lot more than those set in the desert. But let's take a few steps back and outline what the story is about even though it's been told a hundred other times by many other reviewers.

This is a story that chronicles the life of Theo Decker, a boy, who at thirteen, tragically loses his mother at a museum when it is bombed in an act of terror. Theo survives the attack, and in his confusion finds himself walking out with the Dutch painting by Fabritius "Goldfinch", which was the same painting his mother was constantly raving about before they got separated and the explosion occurred. But that's not all, at an old man's dying wish, he also finds himself walking out with an antique dealer's ring to be given back to his partner, Hobie - one of my favorite characters in this book.

After the death of his mother, Theo is placed under the care of his friend Andy's family, who try their best to make him feel welcome, but he remains resistant to their efforts and in denial of his loss. As time passes, it becomes more apparent that he should give the painting back, but he doesn't know how to do it without implicating himself somehow. Instead, he proceeds to find Hobie, and gives him the ring, which strikes up an eternal friendship between the two, as well as Pippa, the redhead beauty who enchanted him at the museum and was also affected by the bombing, both physically and emotionally. Pippa lost her uncle in the explosion, the old man with the ring, and she stays with Hobie from time to time. The connection between Pippa and Theo is undeniable, it is the kind of electric feeling that vibrates through every word written and said between the two.

In fact, one of my biggest grievances with the book, is the fact that there just wasn't enough Pippa. I honestly thought Pippa would play a much larger role in the overall storyline, but you only see fleeting glimpses of her as she is interwoven in and out of different phases of Theo's life.

Eventually, Theo's father shows up with his new girl friend, and snatches him away to Las Vegas. That is when a clear shift in the story occurs, and you can feel Theo changing and adapting to the circumstances thrown at him. When they first gave him a Vicodin to calm him down on the plane ride to Vegas, I thought to myself, of course...here we go. The downwards spiral begins. And I hated it. I hated that it had to happen, even though I knew it would. When he met Boris, a Russian kid with zero adult supervision, he didn't just make a friend and a brother, but he met the guy that would lead him into a hedonistic lifestyle of women, drugs and alcohol abuse. A lifestyle that haunts him right into adulthood, long after Boris is out of his life.

When he eventually finds himself back in New York and at Hobie's doorstep, Hobie takes him in and becomes his mentor. Theo grows up to take over the business from Hobie, and despite the sudden normality of his life, he is far from being and feeling normal.

At that point, I felt the story begin to drag a little bit. I didn't mind it so much though because this is a very thorough portrayal of a boy's life, and Tartt is trying to create a sharp contrast between every phase of his life from adolescence straight into adulthood, and she can only do that by dragging the pace when it needs to be dragged. Sure, I found myself a tad bored at one point, and was wondering where this was leading, but then all of a sudden s*** hits the fan and I found myself gasping in shock at the turn of events and how it all happened so quickly.

I don't think I would've been as shocked, or it would've had as strong of an impact had I not been reading 200 or so pages of day to day quasi normal happenings of this seemingly ordinary man.

When events suddenly moved to Amsterdam, everything was happening so fast that I just couldn't seem to read fast enough as I skimmed through passages quickly (my version of covering my eyes and peeking through my fingers to see what's happening, but not really). It was just too much, and it became action driven and insane, very very quickly.

This is a book worth reading I think. I admit the reason I picked it up was mainly because I heard they were adapting it into a film, and I wanted to get on that bandwagon before it became popular for its film version.

I kept describing this book as unputdownable, and it was - for the most part. Great book, great writer. I can't say I've read anything for Donna Tartt, but I was very impressed with this one.
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520 of 583 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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Life's too short to bother with this book, 26 Oct 2014
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This review is from: The Goldfinch (Kindle Edition)
This book is far far too long. You keep reading as you think surely something will happen, but it doesn't. The pages are full of pointless words that add nothing. This is so far the worst book I have read. Should have known anything that gets an award is usually pretty rubbish. Don't waste your time or money.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Where is a good editor when you really need him/her?, 28 Sep 2014
This review is from: The Goldfinch (Paperback)
The hype and critical plaudits persuaded me to buy this book, yet here I am, 320 pages into this saga, and I am still reading about Theo and Boris 's endless vodka and vomit scenarios in a bleak and windswept corner of Las Vegas.
I am not only wondering where this unpleasant episode will take me, but also wondering how, after 300 + pages! we finally arrived here; believe me, the journey was far from interesting, the characters were easily forgettable, the plot meandering beyond belief, and I really, really cannot face a further 400 pages of meaningless and uninspiring drivel. My main concern is that I was " duped" into reading he reviews, "conned" into Radio 4's coverage of Ms Tartt's new novel, and sadly, I totally believed the critical acclaim quoted within the book. How can this be so gripping, so heart- stopping, so heart-rendering, so thrilling and touching, so masterful!!
I am a book addict. I am of mature years. I have read hundreds upon hundreds of books. I love reading. So how can this be such an awful novel, yet so highly acclaimed.
There have been many comparisons made between The Goldfinch and Great Expectations. Ignore the references. Please, please take my advice. The autumnal nights will soon be upon us. Buy a copy of " Great Expectations" and sit by an open fire with a comforting drink, and relish the devour the wonderful characters created for you by Mr Dickens. You will remember them all with great affection for years and years to come.
The characters offered to you by Ms Tartt will be forgotten before you turn a page and close the book and place it in a dark space at the very black of a library shelf.........never to be viewed again.
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98 of 111 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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64 of 74 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
(VINE VOICE)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 10 REVIEWER)   
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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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