28 of 28 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 2 months ago by M. READ
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I hugely enjoyed both The Secret History and My Little Friend
Anyone familiar with Ms Tartt's previous books will not be surprised that this is a complex, weighty novel which runs to many hundreds of pages. I hugely enjoyed both The Secret History and My Little Friend, and the first third of The Goldfinch sees the author at the peak of her powers. Thereafter however I felt like the novel went a bit off piste. Too many co-incidences...
Published 1 month ago by Ben Smith
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28 of 28 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 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
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I hugely enjoyed both The Secret History and My Little Friend,
Anyone familiar with Ms Tartt's previous books will not be surprised that this is a complex, weighty novel which runs to many hundreds of pages. I hugely enjoyed both The Secret History and My Little Friend, and the first third of The Goldfinch sees the author at the peak of her powers. Thereafter however I felt like the novel went a bit off piste. Too many co-incidences (the main character seems to spend his whole time in New York bumping into people he knows) and some characters are rendered surprisingly two dimensional, make the rest of the novel entertaining but not excellent. The author uses the final few pages to explicitly lay out the life philosophy which she has spent the previous 700 pages alluding to, something I was pretty dismayed to read. If you don't trust the audience to 'get it' in the first place, don't insult their intelligence by changing narrative style right at the end.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Quite a good story. Could have been much better.,
There are good things in this book, but I would have preferred it if she had been much more ruthless in a further redraft and cut it in half. Half way through I got bored and almost put the book down. Some of the characters are good - especially the protagonist Theo - but some are really caricatured, like Boris and Hobie. The descriptive passages are not tightly written - too many adverbs/adjectives! Many of the twists and turns are totally unconvincing, like the engagement (I won't say whose engagement!). The worst part is the end, where Tartt feels the need to give you a philosophical interpretation of the story. We can interpret by ourselves! I again seriously considered stopping reading in the last chapter, which is pretty amazing after so many hundreds of pages.
87 of 97 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliance and paradox,
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.
507 of 568 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical,
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.
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A promising start but ultimately a broken promise!,
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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unputdownable,
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
9 of 10 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,
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!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing and boring,
I read this because of all the hype but I couldn't be more disappointed. Whilst Donna Tartt is obviously a good writer, I found the book too verbose. It could have been 30% shorter.
The book had a good beginning but I only kept reading because I thought the ending might be good but again I was disappointed. I felt any meaning got lost in a forest of words. I'm sorry but I was bored.
2 of 2 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 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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