The Goldfinch: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction) Info

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A young New Yorker grieving his mother's death is pulled
into a gritty underworld of art and wealth in this "extraordinary" and
beloved Pulitzer Prize winner that "connects with the heart as well as
the mind" (Stephen King, New York Times Book
Review
).

Theo Decker, a
13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his
mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a
wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue,
disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and
tormented above all by a longing for his mother, he clings to the one
thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating
painting that ultimately draws Theo into a wealthy and insular art
community.

As an adult, Theo moves silkily
between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an
antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love -- and at the
center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous
circle.

The Goldfinch is a mesmerizing,
stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned
story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention. From the
streets of New York to the dark corners of the art underworld, this
"soaring masterpiece" examines the devastating impact of grief and the
ruthless machinations of fate (Ron Charles, Washington
Post
).


Average Ratings and Reviews
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3.74

658768 Ratings

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Ratings and Reviews From Market


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Reviews for The Goldfinch: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction):

5

Mar 22, 2013

So listen. Look. I am a READER, right? I mean, I read all the time, everywhere, every day, a book a week. But most of the time the book I'm reading is a dull throb beneath my fingers, a soft hum behind my eyes, a lovely way to spend a bit of time in between things as I meander through my life. You know? It's something I adore, but softly, passively, and often forgetfully—very nice while it's happening, but flitting away quickly after I'm on to the next.

And then sometimes there is a book that is So listen. Look. I am a READER, right? I mean, I read all the time, everywhere, every day, a book a week. But most of the time the book I'm reading is a dull throb beneath my fingers, a soft hum behind my eyes, a lovely way to spend a bit of time in between things as I meander through my life. You know? It's something I adore, but softly, passively, and often forgetfully—very nice while it's happening, but flitting away quickly after I'm on to the next.

And then sometimes there is a book that is more like a red hot fucking coal, a thrum nearly audible whenever I'm close to it, a magnetic pull that stops me doing anything else and zings me back so strongly that I just want to bury myself in its tinnitus at all times—five minutes in line a the bank, two minutes in the elevator, thirty seconds while my coffee date checks her email—gorging myself with sentences and paragraphs until the whole world recedes and shrivels into flat black-and-white nothing.

This, this, this is one of those books. It's a book that bracingly reaffirms my faith in literature, making me endlessly astonished by its power and poise and brilliance. I know I am constantly chided for hyperbole, but this is truly one of the greatest books I've ever read.

Probably it's a result of the endless march of mediocre books that plague the publishing industry these days—self-pub and traditional; I'm holding the major presses hella accountable too—but a book like this, so full and deep and flawlessly constructed, is just such a shock, such a pure clear joy. Every element is fucking perfect. Every element, truly! The plot, the characters, the pacing, the tone, all the little details, so so many tiny details, all perfectly, astonishingly slotted into place; the patois and the slang and the dialogue and the descriptions, oh my god the descriptions, from a smile to a chandelier to a mood; even the goddamn chapter epigraphs, which, who even reads those? But they're perfect, she's perfect, this book is just a knock-down, drag-out wonder.

And it covers so much ground, with no shortcuts: from the Upper West Side moneyed elite to gambling addicts in the suburbs of Vegas, from a Lower East Side drug den for decadents gone to seed to the charming Christmastime streets of Amsterdam. Nothing is two-dimensional: if a characters restores furniture, you will learn so goddamn much about wood and veneers and myriad adherents; if another is a sailor, you will feel the wind in your hair and the goddamn spray of surf on your cheeks.

Philosophy, art history, baccarat, heroin. Proust, childhood bullies, Russian drug-dealers. The cut of a jewel, the play of light through a crooked blind. The way a small dog remembers someone it hasn't seen in ten years. The way the very rich handle mental illness in the family. The way a teenage boy feels after taking acid for the first time. The bonds between people that last a lifetime, many lifetimes. The power of art to change a life, to change a million lives; the immortality of a work of art and the line of beauty that connects generation after generation of appreciators. How it feels to be always and ever in love with the wrong person—and how perfect and perfectly flawed she is, or he is, all the same. The way people age. The way people cling to each other at the wrongest of times, in the unlikeliest ways. The way people talk, my god, there is a Russian character (probably the best character in the book) who learned to speak English in Australia and you can really hear that fucking incomprehensible accent, the hitch of verbs mis-conjugated in just the right ways, the tossing out of slang words in four different languages, so casual and so perfectly apt. The way a life is made of recurrences, circlings back and back, openings out and out and out.

What if one happens to be possessed of a heart that can't be trusted—? What if the heart, for its own unfathomable reasons, leads one willfully and in a cloud of unspeakable radiance away from health, domesticity, civic responsibility and strong social connections and all that blandly held common virtues and instead straight toward a beautiful flare of ruin, self-immolation, disaster? If your deepest self is singing and coaxing you straight toward the bonfire, is it better to run away? Ignore all the perverse glory your heart is screaming at you? Or is it better to throw yourself headfirst and laughing into the holy rage calling your name?



Five stars, five hundred stars, five million. ALL THE GODDAMN STARS FOR DONNA TARTT FOREVER. ...more
1

Nov 09, 2013

Audible. OH MY GAWD! Who ARE you people giving this 5 star raves? I'm not even half way yet and I'm wondering if I will be able to weather this ridiculously long book that keeps getting sidetracked by just about every teenage pothole you can think of.

And can we talk about motherless orphans? I've lost track of how many motherless main characters are in this book. How can I be this far out of touch with other reviewers?

------
Halfway thru now. Spending lots of energy trying to be less harsh and Audible. OH MY GAWD! Who ARE you people giving this 5 star raves? I'm not even half way yet and I'm wondering if I will be able to weather this ridiculously long book that keeps getting sidetracked by just about every teenage pothole you can think of.

And can we talk about motherless orphans? I've lost track of how many motherless main characters are in this book. How can I be this far out of touch with other reviewers?

------
Halfway thru now. Spending lots of energy trying to be less harsh and trying to enjoy the ride tartt is taking me on. But I am not succeeding. This book is utter ridiculousness. Not believable at ALL. and this morning my friend informed me it was named Book of the Year. I'm speechless.
---
Three quarters done. Bottom line: Theo has become a very unlikeable guy. The pages and pages of minutia detail -- often building intrigue and suspense -- are pointless and often left unresolved. Reading this book reminds me of watching the tv show Lost. You think "MAN. I wonder how they are going to explain that polar bear!" Only to wait four more years and find out that they never do.
---
Oh. My. Gosh. I just finished. The ending does not disappoint. What a diaphanous extravaganza of words. Of lists. Of never-ending stream of consciousness pompoonery. Yes. I made that word up. It's the merging of pompous and tom-foolery. Is Tartt serious? Can she really be seriously presenting up this book with a straight face? The ending is... Utterly astonishingly perfectly awful. If you are reading this and wondering if you should finish the book. Yes. Do it. Then report back here. I need the company.

-----
**Update on 4/1/14
After 400+ comments to this review that was never meant for any purpose other than my own entertainment so that I might remember the book, I feel the need to add the following:

To anyone wondering if they should still read this book, since reviewers are so divided (eg you either LOVE it or HATE it) : by all means, YES. Read it! But: if you find you are hating it within 100 pages, just put it down and walk away. Because it won't ever get better for you (Really. do as I say and not as I do: Put. It. Down.). For those who LOVE this book: Good for you! I am truly happy for you. There is nothing better than a book you love! ---Now move along, because the 9+ pages of comments here are for those who don't and will just make you mad. :) ...more
3

Jul 13, 2013

Never have I been so conflicted about a book. Parts of it I loved. Parts of it I hated. Sometimes I wanted to praise it. Other times I wanted to abandon it.

I'm relieved I've finally finished this novel (771 pages! Good grief!) because I can stop debating whether or not to keep reading it.

It's difficult to talk about The Goldfinch without being spoiler-y, but I shall try. What I appreciated most was the lovely prose — some sections are truly beautiful. Donna Tartt can write an arresting Never have I been so conflicted about a book. Parts of it I loved. Parts of it I hated. Sometimes I wanted to praise it. Other times I wanted to abandon it.

I'm relieved I've finally finished this novel (771 pages! Good grief!) because I can stop debating whether or not to keep reading it.

It's difficult to talk about The Goldfinch without being spoiler-y, but I shall try. What I appreciated most was the lovely prose — some sections are truly beautiful. Donna Tartt can write an arresting paragraph, to be sure. Here is one that gave me pause:


"I don't care what anyone says or how often or winningly they say it: no one will ever, ever be able to persuade me that life is some awesome, rewarding treat. Because, here's the truth: life is catastrophe. The basic fact of existence -- of walking around trying to feed ourselves and find friends and whatever else we do -- is catastrophe. Forget all this ridiculous 'Our Town' nonsense everyone talks: the miracle of a newborn babe, the joy of one simple blossom, Life You Are Too Wonderful To Grasp, &c. For me -- and I'll keep repeating it doggedly till I die, till I fall over on my ungrateful nihilistic face and am too weak to say it: better never born, than born into this cesspool."


So, yeah, this book is depressing. The story opens with a young boy, Theo, surviving a terrorist bombing in a museum, but his mother died and he feels responsible. Meanwhile, Theo steals a famous painting, one that shows a goldfinch chained to a perch, because his mother had loved the painting and he wanted to keep it safe. For the rest of the novel, the fate of the painting hangs in the balance. Theo agonizes over how and when to return it, and what crime he'll face. Eventually he ends up in the art underworld, caught in a complex scam.


The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius

So the plot is rich and detailed, but my complaint was with the characters: I didn't like Theo, or his dad, or his dad's girlfriend, or his friend Boris, or Boris' girlfriend, etc. And Theo makes so many bad choices throughout the novel that it was difficult for me to care about what happened to him. Spending more than 700 pages without caring about the main character was a bit punishing. (And yet I kept reading! It's like I was that poor goldfinch chained to the book.)

There was also too much written about repairing furniture, and WAY too much coverage of Theo's drug and alcohol abuse. I understand that he had post-traumatic stress disorder and that he was anxious and fearful, but I didn't need to read dozens of pages on how drunk and high he was. I don't think this novel had anything new to say about altered realities or making dumb decisions when you're bombed.

While reading, I frequently made comparisons to Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities, a similarly long novel with an unlikable main character who gets caught in a dark web. Bonfire was considered the book that defined the '80s decade, and it seems like Goldfinch is poised to be the book that defines the post-9/11 era. I'm glad I've read it, but I'm even more glad I'm done with it.

Update January 2014
I finished this book about two weeks ago and when I talk about it with other readers, my most salient feeling is how anxious it made me. I was anxious about the painting. I was worried about Theo's survival. Boris and his kamikaze behavior made me jittery. The section in Amsterdam made me so uneasy I had to skim to get through it. I say this as a caution to other readers: This book is not a carefree or an easy read. You have been warned.

Update February 2015
It's been a year since I read The Goldfinch, and every time I see a copy of this book, I shudder. I cannot think of another novel I've read that made me feel more relieved to have finished it. I have heard friends say they had to abandon this book because it made them too anxious. Can you suffer PTSD from a book? If so, this one caused it.
...more
1

Dec 08, 2013

I have not read Tartt’s two previous, and by most accounts, superior novels. In The Goldfinch you can see that the talent is there but something is drastically off in the storytelling. The book drags and drags. It exasperates with unnecessary detail that calls annoyed attention to a critical lack of credibility throughout. The narrator is like one of those panhandlers who stop you on the street and provides too long a story about some travail: my mom and I were just mugged they took her to the I have not read Tartt’s two previous, and by most accounts, superior novels. In The Goldfinch you can see that the talent is there but something is drastically off in the storytelling. The book drags and drags. It exasperates with unnecessary detail that calls annoyed attention to a critical lack of credibility throughout. The narrator is like one of those panhandlers who stop you on the street and provides too long a story about some travail: my mom and I were just mugged they took her to the hospital and I need to get to New Jersey to tell my dad who’s deaf but first I have to get to the hospital which is like a thirty minute cab ride away in Brooklyn and she needs this medication that was in her purse which got stolen but I didn’t get a chance to tell the EMTs about so I have to find a Duane Reade and get the prescription filled which costs about fifteen dollars if you could just help me out with part of it I’ll pay you back like tomorrow I have my address and phone number written down here I am really embarrassed and would never ever ask a stranger for help like this but this was our first ever trip to New York City and we never thought anything like this still happened but…. They are telling you so much because they want more than the average panhandler, not quarters or a buck but a ten or twenty. They hope the detail dazzles or distracts. However the more they tell you the more you know it’s all a lie. The extra details only betray.

In The Goldfinch the betraying detail is in things large and small. Theo, the narrator, notices and remembers everything but no one else seems capable of noticing anything in the moment even when it’s their job to. As a reader you are left wondering, for example, would a teenager struggling in shock through a scene of devastation have noticed and remembered fourteen years later the names on office doors as he is trying to find his way out of a bombed building? You never believe that Theo could have left the museum without anyone noticing him, but he has to. So an immense amount of detail is added to provide a masking confusion. But if he was in the building long enough following the explosion for emergency personnel to arrive, begin rescue efforts, and then leave the building because of fear of another bomb, would there have been a door within the cordoned off perimeter that didn’t have police and emergency workers watching it?

Reduced to a plot line everything in the story can be made plausible; transformed into 771 pages of excessive description and your skepticism is teased and taunted from the beginning and at every turn of the page.

A book this long needs to be put down frequently: you are at your stop on the subway, it’s time to move a load of laundry from the washer to the dryer, time for a meal or bed. Only once did I put The Goldfinch down with regret that I couldn’t continue reading. Every other time I was relieved. At page 100, 200, and even at page 700 I wasn’t sure I was going to continue reading until the end. This isn't to say the Tartt can't craft a sentence, isn't well-read or a capable researcher, or smart as a whip. She can and is. But in execution this is tied for the most tedious and disappointing reading experience in 2013.

The Goldfinch is the story of a stolen painting and a lost boy and the many bad decisions he makes, influenced by bad genetics and the bad example of his father, by the trauma of violence of the worst kind, and several kinds of dislocation. At no point does Tartt convince you that Theo is something other than a poorly realized grand idea and that the plot, character and actions are more than an academic exercise. The novel has been called Dickensian in its marketing campaign and by some critics. It has also made The New York Times’s list of five best works of fiction in 2013. Both facts baffle me beyond words. ...more
0

Jan 31, 2014

Theo Decker’s mother is killed in a bombing that rocks the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Theo, unharmed, escapes with a valuable painting called The Goldfinch. He carries this symbol of grief and loss from early adolescence into an adulthood fraught with danger and beset by addiction. The long middle sequence, set in a housing development on the seedy, sand-blown outskirts of Las Vegas, is a standout. Tartt proves that the Dickensian novel—expansive and bursting with incident—is alive and well.
2

Jan 26, 2014

I, Boris, character in this book will give you honest opinion. Very honest. If you are reading this, asking yourself, should I read this book which is 771 pages? Very heavy, not that The Idiot was not 656 pages, so not length I am afraid of. If you are wondering, should I read? I answer for you already and say no! I am one of best things in book, at least not all the time moody, gloomy and so stupid I do not not even look in package. Even though I am very important character I must tell you, not I, Boris, character in this book will give you honest opinion. Very honest. If you are reading this, asking yourself, should I read this book which is 771 pages? Very heavy, not that The Idiot was not 656 pages, so not length I am afraid of. If you are wondering, should I read? I answer for you already and say no! I am one of best things in book, at least not all the time moody, gloomy and so stupid I do not not even look in package. Even though I am very important character I must tell you, not worth your time to read this. (Okay to read beginning, some middle, end) but if was me, better to be having a pop than all the time reading about depressed guy who wastes so many good drugs. Bad things happen. All the time bad things. Does not mean cannot enjoy life. Does not mean should make many people spend very much money on depressing book. Not to say is not masterpiece to some people but why spend money on this misery. Cannot all own masterpiece. Potter think he is only one lose mother. In book we none of us have mother. Does not take 771 pages to figure this out. I would maybe read this if just 400 pages, as long as there would not be such long stretches without me. Potter needs me all the time. Not good without me. His one girl, Pippa, is smart not to let him make her into mother. If I was my good friend Theodore Decker and could not enjoy life at all I would do better job at killing self.

Also honest opinion on how they say everyone is reading this book. If I tell you jump off cliff, you do it? Many times I drag Potter from middle of road where he claims to be waiting for car. Did I tell him lie in street? No. So I tell you. Only good thing can come from reading this book (maybe not even need to finish) is lots to talk about with people. Much discussion. Maybe if book from library or stolen worth it? But to buy own heavy copy? Could not even drop in canal without Dutch police all over you. Is better this way. "Trust me." ...more
3

Jun 07, 2019

not to call myself out but I’m at the point in my life where reading books before the movie comes out qualifies as being productive
4

Nov 11, 2013

The Goldfinch is a brilliant story with memorable characters and most of the book is incredibly well done and fun to read.

"Most" being the operative word.

Tartt needed an editor to cut out a lot of the repetitive detail (Like several other reviewers, I too found myself page skimming -- sometimes the detail is fascinating, oftentimes it's unnecessary and just slows down the story.)

There are a few other nits a good editor could have fixed, e.g. the internet makes cameo appearances but it's The Goldfinch is a brilliant story with memorable characters and most of the book is incredibly well done and fun to read.

"Most" being the operative word.

Tartt needed an editor to cut out a lot of the repetitive detail (Like several other reviewers, I too found myself page skimming -- sometimes the detail is fascinating, oftentimes it's unnecessary and just slows down the story.)

There are a few other nits a good editor could have fixed, e.g. the internet makes cameo appearances but it's inconsistent - characters will make use of it in the way people do in 2013 but then later in the same scene they seem to forget it exists (and there's much more of the latter than the former-- Tartt recently did an interview with the New York Times where she admits to only using the web "to look up phone numbers" and her unfamiliarity is pretty evident, which is a problem in a novel whose main protagonists are 20somethings), a number of key plot points are telegraphed way in advance in a manner that feels more heavy-handed than than skillful, there are minor-but-critical unexplained plot points (e.g. why Theo's mother never considered leaving his father) whose omission seems curious in a novel that goes into such minute detail about everything else. And then of course there are the adult Theo's relationships with women, all of which seem overly chaste and prim and bloodless (especially compared to his relationship with Boris)-- even when he professes otherwise.

There's a lot of Great Expectations in this novel-- I can't imagine it's coincidence that one of the main characters is called Pippa-- and Tartt frequently uses Dickens beloved device of the happy coincidence to move the plot forward. Usually Tartt makes the device work, but there are other times where the plot twists seem plucked from a forgettable TV movie of the week.

The final chapter could also have used some heavier editing--" philosophizing" is a great way to end Theo's story, but the chapter just drags on forever, like a well meaning guest who won't stop saying goodbye.

I gave it 4 stars because it's a really masterful story and the fairy tale quality makes it markedly different from so much of modern fiction. I just wish the editors would have had a heavier hand. ...more
2

Nov 26, 2013

As I read the reviews I am fascinated by the fact that I agree with aspects of many of them, whether they rate the book one, two, three, or even four stars. Even the positive reviews point out the very many flaws. I suppose it all comes down to what you are willing to tolerate in a novel. I found Tartt's writing to be at times quite lovely, but I got the feeling she is a little too enamored with her own skill. I am surprised to see the novel described as "dense." It was very, very As I read the reviews I am fascinated by the fact that I agree with aspects of many of them, whether they rate the book one, two, three, or even four stars. Even the positive reviews point out the very many flaws. I suppose it all comes down to what you are willing to tolerate in a novel. I found Tartt's writing to be at times quite lovely, but I got the feeling she is a little too enamored with her own skill. I am surprised to see the novel described as "dense." It was very, very (unnecessarily, in my opinion) long, but it was the opposite of dense. More like bloated--with lots of pretty fluff. When Theo is making his (again, long and mysteriously uninterrupted) way out of the Met in the beginning, I knew right away I was in for a severely under-edited read, and suspension of disbelief of inordinate proportions would be called upon.

I am not a reader who must like or identify with the main character, or even any of them, but I do require them to at least be interesting or representative of a larger idea in some way, if not, then I at least want to be able to root for them. Here, I found the characters unlikable (except for Hobie and Pippa, but they just fade in and out) and with no real emotional resonance. Theo's mourning for his mother in particular, felt vaguely like a lovesick teenager's rendition of grief in a creative writing class. His relationships with women are so shallow and unconvincing as to suggest that he is deeply closeted. But with his lecturing at the end (pursuing what your heart desires, etc), I would think he would come clean on this point if that were the case.

Even the discussion of the eponymous painting is lacking. It's as if the author didn't bother to research the piece--does she not know that Google exists? All the muddled philosophizing at the end left me unimpressed. In the end it was, in the words of Bart Simpson, "just a bunch of stuff that happened." A long, mostly tedious read with very little (or no) payoff.

If you are like me and finish a book you start no matter what, I would seriously give the reviews here a read before committing to it. ...more
1

Nov 19, 2013

This was a huge disappointment for me. The opening New York sections were excellent, the description of the museum bombing and the whole Mansfield Park thing Tartt has going with Theo and the Barbour family, all of this works beautifully. I was excited to keep on reading to see where it all ended up, but once things move to Las Vegas the story takes a seriously wrong turn. I seem to be a minority opinion here, but there you have it. I do remember sitting up all night in 1992 reading The Secret This was a huge disappointment for me. The opening New York sections were excellent, the description of the museum bombing and the whole Mansfield Park thing Tartt has going with Theo and the Barbour family, all of this works beautifully. I was excited to keep on reading to see where it all ended up, but once things move to Las Vegas the story takes a seriously wrong turn. I seem to be a minority opinion here, but there you have it. I do remember sitting up all night in 1992 reading The Secret History. But this is something else...

I have to wonder for whom Tartt thinks she's writing. Does she really imagine that intelligent adult readers are going to be enthralled with hundreds of pages detailing the antics of a pair of burned-out druggie teenagers who spend their time smoking weed, swilling vodka, and dining on packets of sugar and whatever junk food delicacies they can boost from the local supermarket? Well, perhaps they will, the book *is* on the NYT besteller list. But once all the hype and interviews die down...who knows?

The comparisons to Dickens are particularly inappropriate. Dickens wrote about orphans and other unfortunates who are on the receiving end of undeserved bad luck, but his characters struggle *against* degradation and dissipation. Poor little Joe the crossing sweeper sleeps in Tom All Alone's because he has no other choice. But here Theo and Boris revel in their squalor and dissipation . (Boris is the kind of character who seems to exist only in books and movies: the burn-out loser druggie who is failing all his classes in school but is really a secret genius who reads Dostoevsky and Thoreau in his rare sober and lucid moments. Yeah...right. I've been to high school. Burn outs are burn outs).

Nor is there any hint of Dickens' rollicking and life-affirming humor in the book. In fact there is no humor of any kind whatsoever (at least not as far as I read). Not a drop of wit. No one even cracks a halfway decent dirty joke.

And then there is Theo's father, an inveterate gambler deep into the loan sharks, and his aging sexpot girlfriend Xandra...both potentially interesting characters, except they are presented in one-dimensional terms throughout their stay in the novel, and really exist for no other purpose than to end up the way they do (at least in the case of Theo's dad). Wasted opportunity.

Too bad. I gave up halfway though the book. There is just such an incredible ugliness about all (or almost all) of the characters that I found I didn't care a damn what happened to them and certainly didn't want to spend any more time with them. The ironic part is that Tartt is an incredible writer, a master of descriptive prose, attentive to detail and able to create a truly believable world on the page. Too bad it's such a rotten world. ...more
5

Mar 22, 2013

okay. so i read it. and i don't want to be all gloaty-gus for those of you who still have to wait three whole months to get your hands on a copy, but i will say, in brief, that it is worth waiting for. it is worth waiting three months for, as you knew it would be, but i don't know if i can wait another eleven years for another book.

because she's still got it. it is beautifully written. it is everything you hoped it would be: characters as complicated and nuanced as real people. situations okay. so i read it. and i don't want to be all gloaty-gus for those of you who still have to wait three whole months to get your hands on a copy, but i will say, in brief, that it is worth waiting for. it is worth waiting three months for, as you knew it would be, but i don't know if i can wait another eleven years for another book.

because she's still got it. it is beautifully written. it is everything you hoped it would be: characters as complicated and nuanced as real people. situations alternately lovely and bleak. story that tightens up as you are nearing the finish line, ripping you into two parts "must find out what happens," and "must read slowly or it will be over too soon."

i read the synopsis of the book pretty much as soon as it was announced, and then carefully forgot what it said, because i didn't want to have anything in my head as i read it. i wanted a complete discovery.

and the synopsis copy was very careful in what it revealed.

so i am going to have to, for now, be as respectfully careful. and maybe i will come back closer to the release date and give more specifics, but i really just want to squee here and be enthusiastic and say: there is so much to like about this book!

for example, there is something that is announced at the beginning of the book: one of the Very Big Things that happens in life. and the scene that culminates in this Very Big Thing is excruciating. in a good way. you know what is going to happen, but you don't know when, or how, and there is such delicious tension and you wait for that other shoe to drop, marveling both at her prose, and her ability to tease you during the whole of that opening chapter. wonderful.

and then after that, there's another 700 pages of wonderful.

quickies:

boris is perfect and i love him.

the "art underworld" mentioned is way cooler than what you probably usually think of when those words are mentioned. no bored sneers, asymmetrical haircuts and avant-garde attitude here!

everything else i try to write, i just keep deleting. i can't. not yet. i meant to write a "proper" review of this, but everything keeps coming out too specific, too fraught with danger.

just - continue to be excited about this one for now, because it is staggeringly good and i don't want to ruin it with any of my clumsy words just yet.

......................................................................................................
i have been promised an ARC of this.

who wants to be my friend now???

IT IS HEEEEEERE!!!!

well, hello there, lovely...



771 pages of MINE!



come to my blog! ...more
5

Dec 04, 2013

***Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2014. Congratulations Donna Tartt!***

”And I’m hoping there’s some larger truth about suffering here, or at least my understanding of it--although I’ve come to realize that the only truths that matter to me are the ones I don’t, and can’t, understand. What’s mysterious, ambiguous, inexplicable. What doesn’t fit into a story, what doesn’t have a story….

Because--what if that particular goldfinch (and it is very particular) had never been captured or ***Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2014. Congratulations Donna Tartt!***

”And I’m hoping there’s some larger truth about suffering here, or at least my understanding of it--although I’ve come to realize that the only truths that matter to me are the ones I don’t, and can’t, understand. What’s mysterious, ambiguous, inexplicable. What doesn’t fit into a story, what doesn’t have a story….

Because--what if that particular goldfinch (and it is very particular) had never been captured or born into captivity, displayed in some household where the painter Fabritius was able to see it? It can never have understood why it was forced to live in such misery: bewildered by noise ( as I imagine), distressed by smoke, barking dogs, cooking smells, teased by drunkards and children, tethered to fly on the shortest of chains. Yet even a child can see its dignity; thimble of bravery, all fluff and brittle bone. Not timid, not even hopeless, but steady and holding its place. Refusing to pull back from the world.”


The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius 1654

This story begins with an act of terror in modern day New York, but this story could also be said to have started in 1654 when Fabritius, with deft hand, painted his masterpiece, a luminescent bird, a Goldfinch. Theo Decker is a child, with a mother obsessed with art. She frequently would skip buying lunch to have enough money to go to a museum. It is easy to give up food when one is about to nourish the soul. She in particular wants to see The Goldfinch and she wants to share that experience with Theo.

”She’d never seen a great painting in person until she was eighteen and moved to New York and she was eager to make up for lost time--’pure bliss, perfect heaven,’ she’d said, up to the neck in art books and poring over the same old slides (Manet, Vuillard) until her vision started to blur, (‘It’s crazy’, she’d said, ‘but I’d be perfectly happy if I could sit looking at the same half dozen paintings for the rest of my life. I can’t think of a better way to go insane.’)”

”We have art in order not to die from the truth.”
----Nietzsche


In 1992 Donna Tartt had a pixie cuteness that inspired literary crushes from coast to coast.

Donna Tartt is a master of language, but she really excels when she is composing people. This description of Theo’s mother manifested her before me as if she were flesh and blood in the room with me.

”She had black hair, fair skin that freckled in summer, china-blue eyes with a lot of light in them, and in the slant of her cheekbones there was such an eccentric mixture of the tribal and the Celtic Twilight that sometimes people guessed she was Icelandic. In fact she was half Irish, half Cherokee, from a town in Kansas near the Oklahoma border; and she liked to make me laugh by calling herself an Okie even though she was as glossy and nervy and stylish as a racehorse.”


The Dead Goldfinch by George Elgar Hicks

While at the museum a terrorist bomb explodes at a moment when Theo is separated from his mother. He never sees her again. Somehow in the confusion he walks out with an antique dealer’s ring that was placed in his hands by the dying owner, and the painting, The Goldfinch.

Theo is placed with his friend Andy’s family for a time. They live on Park Avenue, and though they try their best to make him feel welcome it is impossible for him to ever feel like anything other than a charity case.

”Mrs. Barbour was from a society family with an old Dutch name, so cool and blonde and monotone that sometimes she seemed partially drained of blood. She was a masterpiece of composure; nothing ever ruffled her or made her upset, and though she was not beautiful her calmness had the magnetic pull of beauty--a stillness so powerful that the molecules realigned themselves around her when she came into a room.”

For all Mrs. Barbour’s money and perceived social power she can not trump one thing...a blood relative. She feels guilty and relieved when Theo’s long gone, long lost, father appears. He has the scent of insurance money in his nose. He has a gambling addiction that rains money when he wins, but when he loses the vig requires a blizzard of money to fix. He sells off everything of his wife’s possessions that can be sold, and hauls Theo out to Las Vegas.

NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

His father acted in a handful of bit parts in Hollywood for a few years before washing out.

”From the genial cursing, his infrequent shaving, the relaxed way he talked around the cigarette in the corner of his mouth, it was almost as if he were playing a character: some cool guy from the fifties noir or maybe Ocean’s Eleven, a lazy, sated gangster with not much to lose. Yet even in the midst of his laid-backness he still had that crazed and slightly heroic look of schoolboy insolence, all the more stirring since it was drifting toward autumn, half-ruined and careless of itself.”


I wouldn’t have thought it was possible to make Donna Tartt look like Gertrude Stein. Seriously who do I need to talk to about this?

Theo’s father is not interested in parenting any more now than he was when he lived with Theo and his wife. In other words Theo is turned loose allowed to roam, and do whatever he wants to do. Theo meets Boris, a Russian kid with even less supervision than Theo, and falls into a hedonistic lifestyle of drugs and alcohol abuse that will haunt him for the rest of his life. The need to escape becomes a pattern that by necessity has to become more and more creative as he swims his way through a sea of pills and booze into adulthood.

”On the marble top of the dresser I crushed one of my hoarded old-style Oxycontins, cut it and drew it into lines with my Christie’s card and--rolling the crispest bill in my wallet--leaned to the tables, eyes damp with anticipation: ground zero, bam, bitter taste in the back of the throat and then the gust of relief, falling backward on the bed as the sweet old punch hit me square in the heart: pure pleasure, aching and bright; far from the tin-can clatter of misery.”

I wonder if Tartt’s writing buddy, Bret Easton Ellis, was a consultant for the descriptions of drug use that are sprinkled throughout the novel.


Bret Easton Ellis: drug, party, sex consultant.

Meanwhile The Goldfinch follows along with Theo.

Before leaving New York Theo returns the ring, that he was given at the museum, to a man named Hobie who turns out to be a business partner of the deceased man. Hobie is a furniture restoring expert. He keeps parts from unsalvageable antiques and uses those pieces to replace damaged sections on salvageable antiques. He also creates new pieces of furniture by marrying filigree to a plain piece as long as the wood dates from the same period. He is an artist. He calls these pieces of furniture his changelings. Theo soon realizes that most people are looking for a deal/steal and he has no difficulty acting the rube to play on their greed. He begins selling these changelings as real antiques. If someone complains he gives their money back and at the same time creates provenance that the antique came from their collection. He uses that provenance to sell the next person. Brilliant, illegal, but brilliant.

He meets Pippa, who stays with Hobie from time to time. She was also hurt in the blast at the museum. When circumstances allow him to escape, the hell-hole called Las Vegas, he lands back on Hobie’s doorstep or should I say in much better proximity to Pippa.

”Terrified she was going to catch me staring, unable to wrench my eyes away, I watched her studying my iPod with bent head: ears rosy-pink, raised line of scar tissue slightly puckered underneath the scalding-red hair. In profile her downcast eyes were long, heavy-lidded, with a tenderness that reminded me of the angels and page boys in the Northern European Masterworks book I’d checked and re-checked from the library.”

Oh yeah, he’s got it bad...for life. Pippa is forever linked with his mother, not because she knew his mother, but because she entered his life at the very moment his mother left it.

”You can look at a picture for a week and never think of it again. You can also look at a picture for a second and think of it all your life.”

Theo hasn’t been able to bear looking at The Goldfinch for a long time. It is an overwhelming cauldron of pain, guilt, beauty, loss, and lust on the order of Gollum’s passion for the One-Ring. If he looks at it too often he will become totally possessed.

”I thought of all the places I’d been and all the places I hadn’t, a world lost and vast and unknowable, dingy maze of cities and alleyways, far-drifting ash and hostile immensities, connections missed, things lost and never found, and my painting swept away on the powerful current and drifting out there somewhere: a tiny fragment of spirit, faint spark bobbing on a dark sea.”


Fabritius Self-Portrait

So there is a painting, stolen, carried all over the country, lost, found, stolen again, and finally found once more. So there is a boy blown up, lost, found, lost, lost, lost, and dare we to hope he is to be found once more? This book is full of beautiful, lyrical language, and a cast of characters that could have competed with a book from the Victorian era. I couldn’t help rooting for Theo in the same way that I rooted for David Copperfield and Oliver Twist. Even when he is surrounded by people, even people that would gladly offer him whatever help he could desire, he is lonely, caught in a cycle of grief that can’t be shared or unburdened. The life he was supposed to have was taken from him, and now he is chained to a bastardized life like Fabitius’s Goldfinch. A life that can never quite be understood, and a life made nearly unbearable by the memory of flight.

”For if disaster and oblivion have followed this painting down through time--so too has love. Insofar as it is immortal (and it is) I have a small, bright, immutable part in that immortality. It exists; and it keeps on existing. And I add my own love to the history of people who have loved beautiful things, and looked out for them, and pulled them from the fire, and sought them when they were lost, and tried to preserve them and save them while passing them along literally from hand to hand, singing out brilliantly from the wreck of time to the next generation of lovers, and the next.”

See more of my writing at http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
You can like my blog page on Facebook here. JeffreyKeeten Blog page ...more
2

Oct 09, 2019

Never have I gone into a book this blind and still felt like it wasn't what I expected...
5

Feb 12, 2015

Adult contemporary fiction. The Goldfinch was the book to read last year, so I didn't read it. Happily I corrected that over the last few weeks! It's the story of young Theo whose mother dies in a terrorist explosion at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. In the ensuing chaos, Theo escapes with his mother's favorite painting, The Goldfinch, a priceless Dutch masterpiece that becomes Theo's secret treasure and also the albatross around his neck. The story follows Theo into adulthood, through a Adult contemporary fiction. The Goldfinch was the book to read last year, so I didn't read it. Happily I corrected that over the last few weeks! It's the story of young Theo whose mother dies in a terrorist explosion at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. In the ensuing chaos, Theo escapes with his mother's favorite painting, The Goldfinch, a priceless Dutch masterpiece that becomes Theo's secret treasure and also the albatross around his neck. The story follows Theo into adulthood, through a series of tragedies and misadventures, until at last, he must face the music in regards to the missing painting. The novel is part coming-of-age story, part mystery, part rumination on the value of a human life versus the value of art. The writing is evocative yet accessible. The characters are wonderfully evoked. Tartt knows how to keep readers engaged with a compelling plot, yet the story is about much more than what happens to Theo and the painting. It's about loss and grief and loyalty. It's a remarkable read. I almost had to stop reading the book when Theo's ne'er-do-well father came on the scene because he was such an ass I wanted to strangle him, but later in the book, Tartt made even that character seem understandable, if not sympathetic. And Boris . . . what a creation! If nothing else, read this book to meet Boris. ...more
1

Jan 02, 2014

1.5 stars

The Mysterious Case of the Shrinking Rating

Oh, kiddies. I don't know where to start in describing my experience of this enormous hunk of enormousness. I came within less than 200 pages of finishing it, but I cannot go on.

A brief (and crabby) synopsis of my experience with this book:

First 200 pages = This is outrageously excellent! Five stars for sure.

Next 200 pages = Getting really sick of Theo and Boris and substance abuse. Four stars, but only if it improves soon.

Next 170+ 1.5 stars

The Mysterious Case of the Shrinking Rating

Oh, kiddies. I don't know where to start in describing my experience of this enormous hunk of enormousness. I came within less than 200 pages of finishing it, but I cannot go on.

A brief (and crabby) synopsis of my experience with this book:

First 200 pages = This is outrageously excellent! Five stars for sure.

Next 200 pages = Getting really sick of Theo and Boris and substance abuse. Four stars, but only if it improves soon.

Next 170+ pages = Drudgery. Author has written herself into a corner but trudges doggedly on. Three stars, dropping to two stars, and finally 1.5 stars because I cannot force myself to finish. The days go by, I'm reading 8 or 10 pages a day at most. I hate the characters, hate the book, and come to hate the author because she took 10 years to write a book and wants us to take another 10 years to read it.

Pffffffft... ...more
5

Aug 24, 2013

The Goldfinch
by Donna Tartt



This is more than a beautifully written novel. It is a life philosophy and a love letter to great art. Life is full of struggle and hardship but the beauty we encounter along the way can make it worth living.


**********************************************
Three Medlars and a Butterfly
by Adrian Coort


“The Dutch invented the microscope,” she said. “They were jewelers, grinders of lenses. They want it all as detailed as possible because even the tiniest things mean The Goldfinch
by Donna Tartt



This is more than a beautifully written novel. It is a life philosophy and a love letter to great art. Life is full of struggle and hardship but the beauty we encounter along the way can make it worth living.


**********************************************
Three Medlars and a Butterfly
by Adrian Coort


“The Dutch invented the microscope,” she said. “They were jewelers, grinders of lenses. They want it all as detailed as possible because even the tiniest things mean something. Whenever you see flies or insects in a still life—a wilted petal, a black spot on the apple—the painter is giving you a secret message. He’s telling you that living things don’t last—it’s all temporary. Death in life. That’s why they’re called natures mortes. Maybe you don’t see it at first with all the beauty and bloom, the little speck of rot. But if you look closer—there it is.” The Goldfinch

**********************************************

One of many the joys of this novel are the visually striking and timeless descriptions of New York City. When the scene shifts to the barren wasteland of suburban Las Vegas, it is a striking contrast. The characters and their stories are conveyed with such detail, they've become real people to me.


Gapstow Bridge in Central Park, Manhattan, New York City



The isolation and sprawl of tract housing in the outer suburbs of Las Vegas.


**********************************************



There are numerous references and allusions to classic literature woven throughout this book. The most explicit ones are to Dickens (Tartt is a huge fan) and to 19th Century Russian Literature, also known as the Golden Era of Russian literature. Theo is a modern-day Pip (Great Expectations). His artsy mother is named Audrey (Holly Golightly, Breakfast At Tiffany’s). A favorite Central Park bench Theo visits with his mom happens to be the same famous bench that Holden Caulfield visits (The Catcher in the Rye). Hobie is a modern-day Joe Gargery (Great Expectations). He's a kind, gentle man who rehabilitates furniture in a dusty antique shop (The Old Curiosity Shop). Theo's streetwise partner in crime, Boris, is a character reminiscent of The Artful Dodger (Oliver). An entire part of the book is named after Dostoevsky's novel, The Idiot. Boris spends several paragraphs analyzing The Idiot and its dark message about life. Boris nicknames the Theo as Potter, a sharp contrast between the cute, wholesomeness of Harry Potter with the bleakness of Theo's life as an orphan.



An old, wealthy Manhattan family, the Barbours, personify New York’s posh, upper-class life. They live in a richly decorated Upper West Side apartment stuffed with priceless furniture and large, dark oil paintings of naval battles. (The Age of Innocence, Great Gatsby).

Art in almost every form is represented in the book: painting, music, film, cinematography, literature, even antique furniture restoration. I counted 36 works of classic literature referenced in The Goldfinch, 24 classic films, 20 iconic paintings, and a dozen iconic musicians and pieces of music. Characters in the book find meaning in their life through art and the creative process: Hobie through furniture restoration, Pippa through her music, Fabritius through his painting, Donna Tartt through prose.



The last 10 pages of the novel pull the themes of the book to the surface. What if you do the wrong things in life, but for the right reasons? How does one differentiate the value v/s price of a work of art? Or an authentic work v/s a counterfeit? Life is harsh, cruel and so short; what's the point? Perhaps art gives us hope and helps make life worth living.

Maybe there is no ultimate truth, no transcendent divine experience. Maybe the acts we commit out of love, are beyond good and evil. Perhaps the artist's job is, not to surrender to the emptiness of existence, but to find an antidote to counteract that feeling of emptiness. Maybe hope, even if it is just an illusion, is a reason to continue. Maybe the beauty we encounter in life is what makes it all worth living.

It took ten years for Donna Tartt to finish this book. It was worth the wait. ...more
5

Sep 29, 2019

OMG! I took nearly fifteen days to finish this book. (I have to admit that I cheated on it with some sci-fi YA releases and thrillers) Of the reason is 775 pages long journey cut my enthusiasm but at least it wasn’t bored me, I never intended to put it on my dnf list because it was a fabulous Dickensian book, so lyrically, mind-captivating-ly, memorably written. I wish I had the all the time on the earth to full concentrate on this story.

Normally reading is the way for me to lose myself in OMG! I took nearly fifteen days to finish this book. (I have to admit that I cheated on it with some sci-fi YA releases and thrillers) Of the reason is 775 pages long journey cut my enthusiasm but at least it wasn’t bored me, I never intended to put it on my dnf list because it was a fabulous Dickensian book, so lyrically, mind-captivating-ly, memorably written. I wish I had the all the time on the earth to full concentrate on this story.

Normally reading is the way for me to lose myself in words and I always act like I cannot hear the people blaring to my ears to get my attention! But for this book, I cannot have a luxury to connect with the outer world. I have to grab this one, leave on a helicopter and land on a private island bringing three things with me this book, a case of Chardonnay and my husband’s leftover meatballs( thanks God, one of us can cook and that’s not me!) In three amazing days I could end this book, get drunk, eat decent meal and get an amazing tan.

Well, I couldn’t achieve to realize this dream so I finished in 15 days and put more efforts to absorb each word because this book was like a chocolate lava cake for me, I never wanted to finish it and as I dig more I found more layers, new tastes to discover and enjoyed each second till it fully devoured!
From the beginning my world rocked because MET is my sanctuary in NY. The bombing of one of the trade-marks of country is one of the effectively shocking ways of starting of a story. Theo Decker loses his mother at the attack and escapes from the explosion, unharmed, with a priceless painting named Goldfinch with him!

Theo’s adventure continues at his new home as one of close friends of the family took him to Park Avenue apartment. Takes you to the journey to take a closer look to the Upper West high class elites and the elites with gambling addiction problem! Then you’re moving to Lower East Side drug circles, darkest dens and accidentally found yourself at Vegas suburbs. Then suddenly you open your eyes Amsterdam streets at Christmas.

It was depressing, heart-wrenching, hardly absorbing, sad story because every one’s ways to face with the grief and their losses were different. Some people could hardly move on from one of the stages. Denial was the most dangerous stage which resulted with self-harm. Mostly the self-guilt took the rest of strength Theo mustered mostly and forced him to self-harm.

What I mostly liked is the genuinely developed characterizations which had significant resemblances with Dickens characters. This book may consist of some references of Great Expectations and I felt like I read some kind of amazing tribute to Dickens’ visualization. Of course Boris was my favorite!
I enjoyed it so much but I’m not so sure the adaptation of the story to the big screen will be any good. In my opinion WORDS ARE STRONGER THAN ACTIONS AND IMAGES. Your visualization is always going to be better than what stands in front of you. And some books are not for adaption. Just like this one. So I prefer to skip the movie and later I plan to read this book again to discover different tastes, brand new perspectives and fully enjoy them! ...more
5

Mar 04, 2014

I finished it.



And it was awesome.

(Review to come)
5

Aug 21, 2013

Update again: Thoughts on the movie: (opened today in our area) >>> just saw it!

If you have not read the book -- the movie might be confusing. Its VERY SLOW --VERY LONG -- It didn't transfer to the big screen well. Donna Tartt's book is brilliant -- the movie much less so. Yet--I'm still glad I saw it. A few things work!
My suggest to people going to see it --KNOWING it won't be as good as the book -(its definitely not) - is to PLAN on sitting back for almost 3 hours (It feels like 3 Update again: Thoughts on the movie: (opened today in our area) >>> just saw it!

If you have not read the book -- the movie might be confusing. Its VERY SLOW --VERY LONG -- It didn't transfer to the big screen well. Donna Tartt's book is brilliant -- the movie much less so. Yet--I'm still glad I saw it. A few things work!
My suggest to people going to see it --KNOWING it won't be as good as the book -(its definitely not) - is to PLAN on sitting back for almost 3 hours (It feels like 3 hours anyway: but its not quite that long) -- Go into a meditative type space -- RELAX.... you can't rush the movie --It won't speed up just because you want it to. I had a cold drink to sip -- and enjoyed my lounging seat...and just surrendered into the slow moving length of the film.
Theo --the main character in The Goldfinch is NOT my favorite actor in the film. His friend, Boris is.
The casting for Boris was EXCELLENT....
The casting for YOUNG Theo was 'off' in my opinion. Did we really need another main kid to look like Harry Potter? I think not!!! The older Theo was better.
Nicole Kidman was fine in her role.
The old man of the antique shop was perfect in his role. Also - the antique shop was visually great.

The best visual that totally fit the way I visualized it in the book were the houses in Las Vegas. Those homes were 'exactly' as I pictured it.

The movie does not move in the same chronological order as the book. It jumps around--backward- forward - young Theo - and old Theo.

The clothes were good -- fitting with the times --
The bombing special effects in the museum -- (done as flashbacks) - were done well -- but I would have preferred it to have followed the chronological order of the book -- Its very effective in the book -- a little on the late side in the movie.

so-- overall --not great -- but I'm glad I saw it. SLOW.....expect 'very' slow in the beginning -- We get use to the slow pace after about an hour into it....haha!

Others? Your thoughts on the movie? Love to hear your take --
I LOVED the kid who played Boris!!! Absolutely my favorite actor in the film!!



UPDATE.... I read this 6 years ago -- (in 4 days if my memory is correct). I remember where I sat --my feelings -- and later my local book club gathering-discussion.

I read and wrote this six year old review before it won The Pulitzer Prize.
I'm seeing the movie Friday afternoon. Anyone else going this Friday --or over the week-end?
Maybe we can all chat about the movie?/! --- compared to the book!
:)




AMAZING!!! My personal FAVORITE book of the year!!!

The story was delicious! The writing WONDERFUL!

I've picked some of Donna Tartt's writing to share that I deeply enjoyed:

1) On page 335: "We looked at each other and just laughed; everything was hysterically funny, even the playground slide was smiling at us, and at some point, deep in the night, when we were swinging on the jungle gym and showers of sparks were flying out of our mouths, I had an epiphany that laughter was light, and light was laughter, and that this was a secret of the universe. For hours we watched the clouds rearranging themselves into intelligent patterns; rolled in the dirt, believing it was seaweed (!); lay on our backs and sing "Dear Prudence" to the welcoming and appreciating stars. It was a fantastic night -- one of the great nights of my life, actually, despite what happened later." WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!! RIGHT?????

2) "Me --well, maybe I didn't have a girlfriend or even any non-drug friends to speak of but I worked twelve hours a day, nothing stressed me out, I wore Thom Brown suits, socialized smilingly with people I could not stand, swam twice a week and played tennis on occasion, stayed away from sugar and processed foods. I was relaxed and personable, I was thin as a rail, I was an excellent salesman -- everyone said so -- and business was so good that what I spent on drugs, I scarcely missed." I STILL LAUGH just TYPING that SENTENCE!

This author --IMO ---is EXCEPTIONAL --beyond EXCEPTIONAL!!! I'm in 'aw'!!!!

I wish I could thank her for the incredible experience I had with her book! ...more
3

Oct 22, 2013

Donna Tartt's latest novel has left this reader relatively unimpressed, especially considering the fact that she's author of The Secret History - a successful and popular novel which resulted in an entire generation of books which tried to be like it - and has reportedly spent 10 years writing The Goldfinch, which could very well be true, since she has written exactly three books in three decades. Understandably, her new novel became the object of much anticipation and when it was finally Donna Tartt's latest novel has left this reader relatively unimpressed, especially considering the fact that she's author of The Secret History - a successful and popular novel which resulted in an entire generation of books which tried to be like it - and has reportedly spent 10 years writing The Goldfinch, which could very well be true, since she has written exactly three books in three decades. Understandably, her new novel became the object of much anticipation and when it was finally released it did so to rave reviews, with Stephen King calling it "an extraordinary work of fiction" and even the notoriously harsh Michiko Kakutani was charmed, and called the novel "dazzling". I confess to be genuinely puzzled by all the positive reviews, as the book that I've read overly long, very disjointed and overall surprisingly clumsy, considering the time it took to complete. This is a story which has all the potential of being great but is simply not told very well, and ultimately collapses under its own weight.

Tartt begins The Goldfinch with what should have been a classic Hitchcock trick, but - thanks to the blurb which reveals it in advance - never even had a chance. Theo Decker - the main protagonist and narrator - is a 13 year old boy who is visiting New York's Metropolitan Art Museum with his mother, where they're viewing an exhibition of Renaissance Dutch art. Theo is charmed by a young girl who is visiting the museum with an elderly man, and wants to look at her a bit more, prompting his mother to go and take a look at her favorite paintings. Just after she disappears a bomb explodes, turning the museum and exhibition into rubble and dust. Theo miraculously survives, and notices that the elderly man he saw just minutes ago is dying - but manages to call Theo, and gives him his ring with an address. Theo sees him pointing at a painting which somehow has escaped unscathed, freed from its frame by the explosion, and understands that the man wants him to save it. The painting is a famous one - its Carel Fabritius's The Goldfinch, a favorite of his mother's. Theo decides to take it and leaves the museum, later learning that she was killed in the blast.

Theo can't cope with the fact - he and his mother have been very close since his abusive father has left the family several years ago. Effectively orphaned and scared by the prospect of living with elderly and uncaring relatives which the social service agents want to impose on him, Theo manages to secure temporary residence with his friend Andy and his family - the Barbours. He suffers from survivor's guilt, blaming himself for his mother's tragic death and can't imagine having to live without her. Tartt takes her time to illustrate Theo's misery and slow recovery from grief as he lives with the Barbour family - a group stunted and odd in their own way. Until one day Theo's father unexpectedly shows up with his girlfriend, and takes Theo to live with them in their house in Las Vegas.

This is the point where the novel loses its ground and never regains it. Theo's father - a gambler who walks on the thin rope hanging over the great ocean of casinos, filled with loan sharks - and his girlfriend, Xandra, who is not sure what to make of Theo. They're both interesting characters but remain woefully underused and undeveloped - there's a glimmer of a great plot involving Theo's father and his experiences with those who run the Casinos which is then literally and quite unceremoniously dropped, and remains unresolved for hundreds of pages - and when it finally is mentioned again you almost wish that it was forgotten altogether, since the way Tartt "solved" it is truly that lame. A total cop-out and a shame, as it essentially ended what could be a fascinating part of the book. Also, when did the setting stop being important? After being treated to minutiae descriptions of New York and its environs, Las Vegas is basically skimmed over - all we learn about it is the fact that it's in the middle of a desert and that its full of scorching sunlight.

The adjective "Dickensian" gets used a lot in reviews of this book, but I don't think its deserved - unless a novel whose main character is an orphan somehow becomes "Dickensian" by association (to Tartt's credit she inserts a literal Old Curiosity Shop with a Kindly Older Guardian Figure into the book too). Since Theo can be seen as a contemporary Oliver Twist, here enters the charismatic character who will play his Artful Dodger - a Ukrainian teenager named Boris.

Boris is the type of character which can only exist in fiction, and is a rather cartoonish composite of various stereotypes that Westerners have about Russians, Ukrainians and other Slavic people (at least his name isn't Ivan). Boris is a character who does not stay away from alcohol an drugs (of course), and has a rich father who unfortunately is also an abusive alcoholic (I think we've seen that before). Boris also deals with drugs and has connection to the underworld (I guess the usual poor black teenager drug dealers wouldn't be exotic enough), but in reality is a genius (when sober) who is able to converse in several languages, has seen half the planet (his homeland ranks the lowest - of course), and reads Dostoevsky and other ambitious literature in original in his spare time, when not drugged out of his mind. In the real world it simply does not happen - you'd be surprised to see how quickly irresponsibility combined with drugs can extinguish the brightest of fires. Boris's cartoonishness comes as a weird contrast to Theo, whom Tartt tried to portray realistically and convincingly.

The antics of both Boris and Theo make me lose whatever sympathy I could have had for him - he was a whiny and uninteresting kid, but anyone would be a little shaken if their mom exploded. But neither he or Boris are Dickensian characters. Dickens wrote about orphaned children who struggled through life, but they struggled against the condition the world threw them into. Oliver Twist ends up with Fagin because he was swayed by the Artful Dodger, who himself knew no other life. Pip in Great Expectations strives to be a gentleman to impress Estella, whom he pursues. Contrary to that, both Theo and Boris openly embrace the squalor and disintegration, reveling in drug-fueled stupidity, antics and parties. There is no warm humor so familiar to anyone who has ever read a Dickens novel, and not even an shade of anything which could have passed for a portion of his wit.

The novel then moves back to New York, and then across the seas to Amsterdam - in a sequence of events which would suggest that Tartt came up with a series of ideas for several novels and tried to connect them all into a great, big one, which didn't work out. There is even a love story here, but the love interest is nothing more but a prop used to make it happen - she's not fleshed out to be a real person, and is made to look like a forever unreachable mysterious pixie girl. The painting which Theo took from the museum - the Goldfinch - is forgotten for hundreds of pages until it is suddenly mentioned again, and what should have been a major issue in the book - will Theo ever get rid of it, and if he does - how? - gets "solved" in what has to be one of the most anticlimatic resolutions of contemporary literature. In her review Kakutani has admitted that Tartt's sequence of events are highly improbable, but wrote that startling coincidences and sudden reversals of fortune is just Tartt being adept at "harnessing all the conventions of the Dickensian novel". I call bullshit and say that this is just an excuse for lazy and incompetent plotting. A plethora of impossible coincidences shouldn't be so easily accepted - Dickens wrote his novel in installments for newspapers, prety much making the story up as he went on. Sometimes he ran himself into a corner an had to resort to an impropable chain of events - but then he had a week to publish the next chapter of his novel, while Tartt had ten years.

The novel picks up the pace in the last third, which is the tightest and most frenetic part of the book...until it arrives at the conclusion, which is when I began to wonder if Tartt wrote it with a straight face and if the hundreds of pages were not a simple buildup to one giant prank. The ending of The Goldfinch is worthy of a hungover Paulo Coehlo phoning it in on a bad day, and contains the worst of pompous maudlinism disguised as revelation. It feels tacked-on as an afterthought, and makes the reader wonder if the character is consciously engaging in pseudo-intellectual posturing or is genuinely one of the biggest blockheads in contemporary literature.

Ultimately, The Goldfinch is a disappointing book - especially considering the wait time and all the hype that surrounded it. I gave it an extra start for Donna Tartt's writing - she does have a talent for constructing nice sentences here and there - but it does not warrant the 800 pages that it is printed on. Like the saying goes - a picture paints a thousand words, but thousands of words couldn't paint this picture. ...more
5

Dec 10, 2016

This was an exciting book and despite being nearly 900 pages long, was quite a page-turner. The characters were all drawn realistically and with all their flaws (with the possible exception of Hobie who was a lovable sweetheart!) The protagonist, Theo is also our narrator and is fairly reliable as he doesn't hold anything back - even his own many faults. The external narrative is on the fate of the painting The Goldfinch by Fabritius (about which we learn its own turbulent history and extreme This was an exciting book and despite being nearly 900 pages long, was quite a page-turner. The characters were all drawn realistically and with all their flaws (with the possible exception of Hobie who was a lovable sweetheart!) The protagonist, Theo is also our narrator and is fairly reliable as he doesn't hold anything back - even his own many faults. The external narrative is on the fate of the painting The Goldfinch by Fabritius (about which we learn its own turbulent history and extreme genius throughout the narrative) following the explosion on page 34 and how this impacted Theo's life. The painting actually plays a very background position over most of the narrative and only comes centerstage again at the end of the book. Theo makes a lot of poor choices - unfortunately his father's sleazy girlfriend Xandra was right that he is far more like his father than he is willing to admit and yet in some of the best passages in the book, towards the end where Boris talks about Dosto's The Idiot:

Maybe sometimes - the wrong way is the right way! You can take the wrong path and it still comes out where you want to be? Or, spin it another way, sometimes you can do everything wrong and it still turns out to be right.

We know that despite Theo's tendency towards his dad, he is nonetheless a more genuine person and that Boris with all his external show of bravado - and of course his one big betrayal of Theo - he turns out to also to precisely the surprising but right thing in the end.

It is to Tartt's credit that the book contained so much detail (and none of it boring or pedantic) about furniture, art, and literature (driving me crazy I cannot place the turning point scene in La Recherche between Swann and Odette that she refers to) which added a lot more depth and interest to the book. Personally, I think the length was fine - she had a lot of story to tell and did an excellent job telling.

I love at the end also where Theo is traveling and tells us that one of the lessons he learned from Hobie was:

...those images that strike the heart and set it blooming like a flower, images that open up some much, much larger beauty that you can spend your whole life looking for and never find.

I found that to be a beautiful image and full of truth - like Plato's cave. Yet, another apt and thought-provoking insight from this rich and thought-provoking masterpiece. This was one time that the Pulitzer nailed it.

On a side note, I made my own trek to the Mauritshuis museum in Den Haag years ago when reading Proust to see Vermeer's View of Delft and the Girl with the Pearl Earring but either the painting was traveling or I drifted right past it towards Rembrandt. Guess I need to return to the Hague!

Her other two books were good, but this one was the best.

I was in Den Haag at the wonderful Mauritshuis Museum and saw (again) the original Fabritius painting - absolutely stunning. Interesting tidbit: months after painting The Goldfinch, the artist and most of his work were blown up when the building his studio was in exploded.

The film for this book is just coming out, hopefully it will do the book some justice. ...more
4

Aug 02, 2018

Donna Tartt is one of America’s greatest living male writers. She has taken a form of novel - the doorstopper, the tome, the phonebook - and taken something away from it that is has often never been without: the penis. In this ritual castration of the ‘opus’ Tartt has managed to completely free it from all its ills. DeLillo, Franzen, Foster Wallace, Pynchon, Mailer, all kneel there, bloodied and shorn like Goya etchings, John Bobbitts by any other name, weak and utterly defeated. Whilst Donna, Donna Tartt is one of America’s greatest living male writers. She has taken a form of novel - the doorstopper, the tome, the phonebook - and taken something away from it that is has often never been without: the penis. In this ritual castration of the ‘opus’ Tartt has managed to completely free it from all its ills. DeLillo, Franzen, Foster Wallace, Pynchon, Mailer, all kneel there, bloodied and shorn like Goya etchings, John Bobbitts by any other name, weak and utterly defeated. Whilst Donna, looking like what Timothée Chalamet will eventually become, stands defiant, a bouquet of dicks in hand, laughing.

Carel Fabritius’ 1654 trompe-l’œil The Goldfinch is an odd little painting. Fabritius only uses about 40% of the canvas for his painting of the little bird. The rest is a sea of nothing, but it’s enjoyable nothing. Donna Tartt’s 2013 novel The Goldfinch is an odd little book. Tartt only uses about 40% of the novel for the plot and its development. The rest is a sea of nothing, but it’s enjoyable nothing.

People gushed over this book when it came out. Absolutely soiled themselves. I scarcely recall any other book in the five years since The Goldfinch came out that has had anywhere near the same amount of complete domination. I mean, it was all, of course, deserved. No other writer has written anything like this since, nor has anyone even tried. It must have been like when Michelangelo did the Pietà and every other artist in Renaissance-era Italy was like ‘well fuck me right!? fuck MY still lives’.

I didn’t read it at the time. I was still disillusioned by how much I did not enjoy The Secret History. I know, I know, I didn’t like The Secret History. I think it was because I actually saw too much of myself in the characters, and they’re all detestable. A similar thing happened with Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot, a fucking awful novel full of characters just like me. People often complain about never seeing themselves in books, my problem is I can’t seem to escape myself.

And I found myself again in The Goldfinch. In Theo. This time it didn’t cause me to throw the book across the room however. I mean, Theo is insufferable. Everything about him just reeks, really. But god is he loveable. The broken male teen. Holden Caulfield wishes. Then there’s also Hobie. Ah Hobie. Sweet, clueless Hobie. I will do everything in my power to protect you.

Plot-wise we’re a bit fast and loose here aren’t we? That Vegas bit went on didn’t it? And the entire second-half? Whew. Michi Kakutani was jumping over herself with the Dickens comparisons in the NYT. But you really couldn’t be farther from Dickens. The thing with Dickens was it was all plot. You could never say nothing happens in Dickens, if anything too many things happen. Also she compares Theo to Pip when he’s clearly David Copperfield. I’m glad she retired.

Anyway this is meant to be a review of The Goldfinch isn’t it? Eh, yeah, it’s great. I really loved it. Patchy. But great. Some bits needed polishing. But great. Couple characters could’ve been cut. But great. The whole marriage thing? But great.

Also I’ve decided to give The Secret History another go. I feel the problem is me. Not the book. But The Little Friend can eat my entire ass. ...more
5

Jun 17, 2019

reading this book is the very definition of being ‘a labour of love.’

this story expects a lot from you. it requires attention, demands emotion, requests a sacrifice of time, asks for unconditional patience, and begs for your heart. but you keep turning the page, you keep coming back to theo and his story, because you know that your efforts, no matter how trying, will be worthwhile.

and it isnt until that last paragraph, you know the one im talking about, the last sentence that just bleeds love reading this book is the very definition of being ‘a labour of love.’

this story expects a lot from you. it requires attention, demands emotion, requests a sacrifice of time, asks for unconditional patience, and begs for your heart. but you keep turning the page, you keep coming back to theo and his story, because you know that your efforts, no matter how trying, will be worthwhile.

and it isnt until that last paragraph, you know the one im talking about, the last sentence that just bleeds love and loneliness and beauty and sorrow, that you can close the book and finally say, ‘reading this may have been long, and not always easy, but i am all the better for it.’

reading this book was a labour of love and, oh, how lovingly i laboured.

↠ 5 stars ...more
5

Mar 22, 2013

Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Congratulations, Ms. Tartt on such a stunning return.

The Goldfinch is a doorstopper, weighing in at over 700 densely written pages. Yet, I found myself tearing through it as if I couldn't read it fast enough. I don't know what the secret is to Ms. Tartt's prose, but I dig it. I dig it a lot. Maybe it's due to sheer deprivation (absence making the heart grow fonder and all that jazz), because this lady, while her talent goes undisputed, has only Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Congratulations, Ms. Tartt on such a stunning return.

The Goldfinch is a doorstopper, weighing in at over 700 densely written pages. Yet, I found myself tearing through it as if I couldn't read it fast enough. I don't know what the secret is to Ms. Tartt's prose, but I dig it. I dig it a lot. Maybe it's due to sheer deprivation (absence making the heart grow fonder and all that jazz), because this lady, while her talent goes undisputed, has only managed to pen three novels in three decades -- the very antithesis of James Patterson (whom I wish would just go away -- how many trees have to die for you, Jim? HOW MANY?)

I can be a real sucker for a sense of place. Tartt writes New York in such a way that I was able to feel the thrum of traffic and smell the bakeries (and the sewers). Taxis, doormen, park benches, museums, lunch counters -- all swirling together in a portrait that's as carefully rendered as any artist's painting. When she transplants readers to the parched and desolate Las Vegas suburbs, I became just as enthralled by the startling contrast between bustling city and dry desert.

There's really not much to say here other than I became totally immersed in this book while I was reading it. It's a character-driven piece in the sense that it's without an intricate plot, or Big Reveals. But oh, what characters! All the feels! It was just such a heartening experience to get to know them all and watch them hurl through life together, for better and for worse. It's the characters from which we draw the tension and the pace of the story and it's all so deftly handled by Ms. Tartt that I'm actually left floundering for ways to adequately describe it.

So I won't. Let her take you on this journey and I'll get the hell out of the way. ...more
3

Jun 24, 2018

So, I did it! I read all 864 pages of this book! And it was so dark!
At times I needed to take a break, because it was just so heavy (both physically and metaphorically) some of the themes and thoughts the main character had were so awful, I was feeling depressed just to read it!

“Even the sidewalk felt like it might break under my feet and I might drop through Fifty-Seventh Street into some pit where I never stopped falling.”

Not that it was all bad, there was plenty that wasn’t as dark. But So, I did it! I read all 864 pages of this book! And it was so dark!
At times I needed to take a break, because it was just so heavy (both physically and metaphorically) some of the themes and thoughts the main character had were so awful, I was feeling depressed just to read it!

“Even the sidewalk felt like it might break under my feet and I might drop through Fifty-Seventh Street into some pit where I never stopped falling.”

Not that it was all bad, there was plenty that wasn’t as dark. But the overriding themes were just so tough. Theo’s Mum dies in a bomb explosion in the museum in New York, so he is forced to move to Las Vegas and live with his dad, a recovering alcoholic with a now severe gambling addiction. Theo’s time here, though only 15 years old is rife with alcohol and more drugs than you’ve ever seen! He and his best friend Boris were seriously messed up.

Theo has been carrying with him a painting stolen from the museum where his mum died. The Goldfinch, worth so much it is actually priceless, given to him by a dying man.

When Theo returns to New York he stays with the old partner of the dying man, Hobie, in the antiques shop they ran together. Theo and Hobie run the business together, all the while Theo still has The Goldfinch hidden. No one knows he has it - or do they?

This is an epic tale spanning decades of Theo’s life, it covers so much ground, but I finished it not feeling overly satisfied and there were times I was really pushing myself through. Glad I’ve read it, but I definitely need something lighter now as this book was not great for my mental state.

“None of us ever find enough kindness in the world, do we?” ...more

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