Customer Review

204 of 246 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Expectations for our times, 2 Sep 2013
This review is from: The Goldfinch (National Book Critics Circle Award: Fiction Finalists) (Hardcover)
Running to almost 800 pages, The Goldfinch is going to require a substantial investment of your time, but I think anyone would be prepared to give Donna Tartt's new novel that much. What you might not realise until it is too late however is the amount of personal investment a book like this demands. By the time you get to the even half-way through the extraordinary 14 year journey that has taken Theo Decker to Amsterdam, the dawning realisation that this has to eventually come to an end suddenly hits you. Drawing out the inevitable isn't possible either as there's not a moment of The Goldfinch that doesn't have you completely in its thrall, reluctant to put it down and feeling bereft at its conclusion.

The Goldfinch is a masterpiece in the classic style of the Bildungsroman. The recounting of Theo Decker's unfolding awareness of the world, its complications, its criminality and injustice, the lack of stability in his life, his sense of being isolated and his ability to love are all affected by one significant event of terrorism in the modern world that skews his view of reality and effectively leaves him an orphan. What follows is a remarkably detailed account that covers every aspect of Theo's life in detail and the storytelling is never anything less than wonderful. It's almost Dickensian in scope and treatment, the book drawing obvious parallels with Great Expectations and even making references and nods to Oliver Twist, but in its own way it is also a thoroughly modern work. It's more than just a character or psychological study, it's more than just a series of escalating incidents that eventually reach crime thriller proportions, but it takes in a whole range of relevant cultural, moral, social and familial circumstances and tries to consider how one can make sense of it all.

What ties it all together and what is the one constant in Theo's turbulent life is the Dutch Master painting of The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius (1622-1654), which accidentally and completely illegally comes into his possession. The painting is many things to Theo, something that he can't shake off or deny, but rather feels a deep affinity for and a responsibility towards it. It's a reminder of the significant moment when the world lost all sense, but it's also a lifeline that he clings to throughout his difficult and troubled adolescence, serving as a connecting element that provides a sense of continuity, connecting, linking elements that would otherwise seem random twists of fate and chance. This is however so much more than just a clever literary touch, but a vital and meaningful element that gives the book distinction and a sensibility beyond the pure narrative storytelling delights of Donna Tartt's brilliant writing.

The Goldfinch is itself a masterful work, one that is quite capable of fulfilling the same function as Carel Fabritius's painting, capable of holding a great deal of meaning and affection for the individual reader in how it proposes a way of viewing and making sense of the questions of fate and adversity that life throws at us. I don't think there's anything new here that Dickens didn't already cover so comprehensively in Great Expectations, but the world is a much more complicated place now and it needs someone like Donna Tartt to help try put some kind of order and meaning on it.
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Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 21-23 of 23 posts in this discussion
Posted on 15 Apr 2014 11:16:47 BDT
Bill Bones says:
Incidentally, for those people still following these comments, I'm about two-thirds of the way through and I'm enjoying it. I think it could have benefited from a more rigorous edit, however.

Posted on 6 Jul 2014 11:28:14 BDT
Bill Bones says:
I finished it last night. It took me a long time because I had some other things that I had to read in the meantime. It was good. I'd give it four stars. It's a page-turner but it was very flabby in places. I wish she'd had a decent editor... not that her sales are suffering. Some of the repetition could have been done away with, painlessly. But I'm glad I read it.

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Sep 2014 13:26:26 BDT
H. Carlton says:
I agree, favourable reviews of this book are obviously puff-pieces, the book is quite simply ghastly.
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