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on 13 October 2016
Why spend only one page on each episode when you can spend twenty? The author's (admittedly powerful) ability to elaborate a detail is carried to such extremes as to make the text tedious and boring. I can't recommend this book except as a textbook example of how to lose your reader's interest.
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on 15 August 2017
No Stars. . pulitzer prize! - That award has gone right down in my estimation!
Long,long drawn out chapters padded with tangential irrelevancies. A silly plot, such as I discerned one in the five chapters I could stomach.
One dimensional stock characters with such lack of depth they betray an author whose dearth of imagination( and effort) would shame Dame Barbara Cartland(pbuh)
And the dialogue: Oh the stilted, painful, grinding awful dialogue! I'd add confusing too as half the time it wasn't clear who was half-speaking but frankly by then I'd given up caring.
Hours of my life I will never get back.
Excruciatingly unpleasant experience.
Go to the dentist. Pull your nails out with pliers, watch Reeves & Mortimer repeats even. Anything but waste your life on this book!
Abandon hope all ye who read it. You have been forewarned.
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on 18 December 2017
Big, thick slab of a book that, near the beginning, although the story is set in modern times, contains some interesting facts about Low Countries painters of Sixteenth/Seventeenth Century times. However, it did not hold my interest enough to persevere.

I like and recommend the authoress Donna Tartt's unusual first novel, 'The Secret History', which is about a murder among (of all things) a small clique of American students who insist on specialising in Ancient Greek while the rest of their College and World have moved on. However, I suspect the authoress will never again write anything as good.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 June 2014
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.
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on 12 November 2015
I'm writing this review having not seen any others on Amazon. I chose this book, having read last years MBP winner, The Luminaries. This title, having been nominated for the same award, pales in comparison. The book is three, even four times longer than it needs to be, and the title is incredibly misleading. I am very disappointed having spent many hours ploughing through this hefty tome. The first half is by far the better, with some great scenes between Theo and his father/father's girlfriend in Arizona; the second half is meandering, anachronistic and dull, and despite its length, the text offers no real insight into any of the characters or their motivations. There are some really quite laughable analogies throughout, such as when time appears to skip like a DVD that has been scratched. I felt completely underwhelmed by the ending, and didn't really care what happened to Theo, even though perhaps this was the desired effect for the address to the reader at the novel's close.

A disappointing 4/10.
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on 6 April 2017
In my top ten ever best books. A must-read-and I've read it twice. I then went on to read all her others but this for me is her absolute best
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on 17 March 2014
This wasn't bad but it went one and on and on.......I don't think it needed to be quite as convoluted in places in that I didn't need to know every little thing eaten at a meal or every building along a street or sit through an art lesson !
What I liked most was Popper's story running alongside Theo's story. That touched me far more. At times I was quite frustrated with Theo though his choice of friends was spot on. Hobie I adored and Boris as well. Both very different people encountered at different times in his life but both he needed and Andy, too. I was quite disappointed in Theo regarding Andy, though.
I almost packed this in around 100 pages in because for some reason the author had a bracket obsession and every single page had little asides in brackets. They drove me to absolute distraction but luckily she seemed to suddenly snap out of it. There's no way I'd have ploughed through the 700+ pages like that.
There were mistakes as well I'd not expected. Apostrophe errors of course then I890s then lost fullstops here and there. She also has a habit of not using capital letters after question marks or exclamation marks which I found strange. There was also a lot of foreign language used I had to keep looking up on a translation site which became wearing. You expect that in a textbook but not in a fiction tale. I didn't understand why Popchik was used at times then Popchyk. I'd assume it depended on who was talking but that didn't work out, either. She used some words I Googled and still couldn't find so I'm unsure if they were just made up or misspellings of something else meant-like fubsiness or pastose.
I didn't like some of her animal analogies, either.....and there were a few but I won't share them here. Even the chosen painting of said Goldfinch is a pretty sad one. I did cry in a few places but those were mainly where Popper was concerned. His inclusion probably saved the story for me, I must say !!
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on 4 October 2015
Should I really be the two thousand and somethingth reviewer of this book? I don't know, but I do feel strongly about it given the time I spent reading it! One of my sons lent me "The Little Friend" quite a while ago and I was blown away by it. I thought Donna Tartt was an outstanding author and found the book completely absorbing. Some years later I got round to taking "The Secret History" on holiday and enjoyed it very much, despite some infelicities and irritants - I kept reminding myself this was a terrific first novel by a very young author. On reflection, I can't remember much about "The Little Friend", and a few things about the Secret History irked me - particularly the odd lack of sense of time. I assumed, from much that was written that it was set in the 1950's or early 60's, only to be startled by mention of ATM's. I noted the prancing around in expensive tweed suits and the grandness of the background of many of the characters, and the strange lack of development of some of the major ones. I found the fact that the narrator seemed to ingest large quantities of drugs and alcohol and nonetheless function quite normally irritating and/or boring. These memories came back very strongly when I read the Goldfinch. I was really looking forward to it, despite the massive hype. I tried hard to set aside difficult personal circumstances whilst reading it - it's not a bundle of laughs or meant to be. The start was thrilling and interesting, although as someone who has lost a close relative in a terrorist bombing incident I found it simultaneously both hard to read and at the same time unconvincing. This was a real city, real art gallery and a real painting. It was a fiction book, but I just couldn't believe the whole incident or much relating to it. I do not need to like or admire the characters in a book to enjoy it, but my goodness you wouldn't want to meet most of this gang. Only the delightful Hobie and to me, Mrs Barbour, came out with any credit or degree of likeableness. And again, major characters were very sketchily portrayed - Kitsey was just a cipher - I could not envisage her or why Theo would even consider marrying her. Pippa likewise was hard to see as a real, damaged person. Boris on the other hand rather stole the show. I was so bored with the endless descriptions of drug taking that I nearly lost the will to read on. Once, okay, but time after time just left me cold. There was a middle section of the book when I really wondered if I was going to finish it. And again, there was this weird sense of it not being in any particular period. Clearly, as there were random references to modern mobile phones it was meant to be contemporaneous, but it never felt like it. I had to keep reminding myself as all these people floated around in very expensive suits and hand made shoes and talked knowledgeably about obscure art and furniture (which really interests me in real life, so I was disappointed to find it drear) that they were in the main young (Theo was only 27, as I recollect) and that it was here and now. Theo's mother was another lightly sketched riddle - was she all she seemed? Did she have a shady life that partly caused his despised father to leave? How did they afford a housekeeper if they were so poor and are Kentucky horse dealers the kind of people who have antiques and good jewellery? Perhaps I just don't understand American social mores. Then it sort of descended into a kind of gangsterish noir in Amsterdam (but at least it had a bit of pace) with a whole new cast of baddies and then finished up on a grandiosely moral note with copious reflections on life, art, the universe and everything. I confess to a sigh of relief that at least I'd managed to finish it, but with a distinct lack of engagement, sympathy or any real enjoyment, and I really, really wanted to like it, too. 3 stars is harsh (I'd give it 3 1/2 if I could) as Donna Tartt undoubtedly has a brilliant turn of phrase and occasionally you just go "WOW" at the writing - but not often enough to lift the whole, for me at any rate.
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on 27 June 2015
So far I have read only the first 9% of the story (my Kindle doesn't give page numbers. Not a lot happens but what does is very traumatic for the protagonist, Theo, a 13-year old boy living alone in New York with an artistically
minded mother. His no-good alcoholic father has left them to 'find a new life'. The story opens with Theo and his mother visiting an art gallery in which she introduces him to the merits of some Dutch painters. He spots a pretty girl accompanied by (he guesses) her grandfather. His mother wants to have another look at a particular painting (the GoldFinch) and they agree to meet up a few minutes later at the entrance hall cum shop. While making his way there a terrorist bomb explodes. He is very badly shaken and wonders what on earth has happened. While trying to make sense of the damage and carnage about him he talks to a dying man who has some friendly words for him and the gift of a ring. He stays with the man until he dies. He then manages to make his way out of the building, among the sounds of distant sirens and once out in the streets, blocked with fire engines and ambulances, he eventually returns home half expecting to meet his mother there. He phones her in vain.
Social Services eventually catch up with him and break the news that his Mother is dead, and arrange for him to be temporarily fostered with a wealthy family (of a one time school friend).

The foregoing summarised the first 9% (80 PAGES?) of the entire novel. This is the difference between LITERATURE and the JOURNALISTIC STYLE. Strictly speaking it is all you need to follow the rest of book which amounts in all to about 850 pages. Of course if the entire book were written in this way it wouldn't be a NOVEL as we understand the word: I would rather describe it as a FICTIONAL ACCOUNT; and indeed the entry for this book in Wikipedia contains just such an account. In a way all novels/stories fall between these two extremes. However there is more to it than just the amount of DETAIL: I mean the QUALITY OF WRITING.

For example I quote from the author's text describing Theo's situation when he meets the dying man:-

"My glance wandered to the long gash in his scalp, clotted and dark, like an axe wound. More and more, I was becoming aware of dreadful bodylike shapes slumped in the debris, dark hulks not clearly seen pressing in silently all around us, dark everywhere and the ragdoll bodies and yet it was a darkness you could drift away upon, something sleepy about it, frothy wake churned and vanished on a cold black ocean."

I mention all this because (I assume) it explains the substance of many of the reviews, the first 30 of which are divided as follows: 8 (*), 5 (**), 4 (***), 4 (****) and 9 (*****).

Since writing the above I have read the entire story. In some ways it is a compulsive read but there also passages which make very tedious reading, namely descriptions of drink and drugging.
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on 9 September 2015
My 5 star rating will no doubt confuse you as you read on. Rest assured, the 5 stars is intentional. So here we go. It took me a full year to read the first half of this book. For reasons I do not quite understand yet, I couldn't connect with the story, the writing and flow of the narrative, the characters somehow stayed with me in my day to day life. Then suddenly, one month ago,I committed to finishing it and get over my own limitations. I read the second half within a few weeks. In the beginning I had criticisms like: Theo sounded too feminine for a First Person Male character (well, I was wrong as you'll see when you read the entire book) Theo could not sound any other way and Donna Tartt expanded my understanding of how to write to character as a result...and I am grateful. I've spent four years writing my own novel and it has been one of the most torturous but life-affirming journeys of my life. I'm a creature of Reason and don't buy much into superstition or spirituality but I'm humble enough to admit that Reason does not explain everything. I feel taking my time to read this book was more about me, and less about the author's work. I feel that if I had completed the Goldfinch within a standard period of time, I would not have the privilege of living with Theo, Hobie, Pippa and Mrs. Barbour for a full year. Thank you Donna Tartt. I wish you strength an humour through every step on your journey and as someone battling four years to write something, I feel better that it takes you ten. Since I'll be done soon and thus double your speed, I can only hope that it will be half as good. Buy this book! It may be 800 pages...but every page is either Truth or preparing you for it.
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