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The Goldfinch: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction)

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A young boy in New York City, Theo Decker, miraculously survives an explosion that takes the life of his mother. Alone and determined to avoid being taken in by the city as an orphan, Theo scrambles between nights in friends' apartments and on the city streets. He becomes entranced by the one thing that reminds him of his mother: a small, mysteriously captivating painting A young boy in New York City, Theo Decker, miraculously survives an explosion that takes the life of his mother. Alone and determined to avoid being taken in by the city as an orphan, Theo scrambles between nights in friends' apartments and on the city streets. He becomes entranced by the one thing that reminds him of his mother: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that soon draws Theo into the art underworld. Composed with the skills of a master, The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America. It is a story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the enormous power of art.


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A young boy in New York City, Theo Decker, miraculously survives an explosion that takes the life of his mother. Alone and determined to avoid being taken in by the city as an orphan, Theo scrambles between nights in friends' apartments and on the city streets. He becomes entranced by the one thing that reminds him of his mother: a small, mysteriously captivating painting A young boy in New York City, Theo Decker, miraculously survives an explosion that takes the life of his mother. Alone and determined to avoid being taken in by the city as an orphan, Theo scrambles between nights in friends' apartments and on the city streets. He becomes entranced by the one thing that reminds him of his mother: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that soon draws Theo into the art underworld. Composed with the skills of a master, The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America. It is a story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the enormous power of art.

30 review for The Goldfinch: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Oriana

    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.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    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 paragrap 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.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rick

    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 h 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.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jennie Menke

    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 t 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. :)

  5. 4 out of 5

    Peggy

    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."

  6. 5 out of 5

    Stephen King

    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.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Alan Wolk

    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 inconsis 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.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Kelsey

    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 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.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Gene Schmidt

    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 H 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.

  10. 4 out of 5

    karen

    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 alter 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!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ***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 bor ***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

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rick Riordan

    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 s 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.

  13. 4 out of 5

    LeeAnne

    The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt This is more than a beautifully written novel. It is a life philosophy, a love letter to great art and a literary version of a painting. Humans make art, but art makes us human. Life is full of struggle but the beauty we encounter in this life might be what makes it all 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 The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt This is more than a beautifully written novel. It is a life philosophy, a love letter to great art and a literary version of a painting. Humans make art, but art makes us human. Life is full of struggle but the beauty we encounter in this life might be what makes it all 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 beautifully rich 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 of 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 in "The Catcher in the Rye". Hobie, a modern day Joe Gargery (Great Expectations), is a kind, gentle man who rehabilitates furniture in a charming antique shop (The Old Curiosity Shop). Theo's streetwise partner in crime, Boris, is a character reminiscent of The Artful Dodger from "Oliver". An entire part of the book is named after Dostoevsky's novel, "The Idiot". Boris spends several paragraphs analyzing "The Idiot" and it's dark message about life. Boris nicknames our bespectacled protagonist "Potter" and this reference creates a sharp contrast between the cute, wholesomeness of Harry Potter with the bleak realism of Theo's life as a lost orphan. An old, wealthy Manhattan family, the Barbours, personify New York’s posh, seemingly ideal 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: fine art, 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. This is more than a great story. It's a philosophy about life. The last 10 pages of the novel gathers all of the understated subtext about life, love and art, and pulls it up 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? Can a work of art capture the soul, essence and spirit of life? Life is harsh, cruel and short; what's the point? Can art give us hope and 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.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette "Astute Crabbist"

    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 = 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...

  15. 5 out of 5

    Raeleen Lemay

    I finished it. And it was awesome. (Review to come)

  16. 5 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    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 ge 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.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Maciek

    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 releas 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.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Trudi

    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 mana 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.

  19. 4 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    “Pithy and irrelevant quote from philosopher to make this review sound important.” — Bobby McFerrin Long out-of-context passage from the novel in italics unrelated to the stuff I am about to discuss in the review that sort of hangs there seeking an explanation and that also sounds somewhat profound and rubs off some cred on me for picking out such a seemingly perfect and deep-sounding line to whet your appetite even though you have probably skimmed the whole thing because you fail to see the rele “Pithy and irrelevant quote from philosopher to make this review sound important.” — Bobby McFerrin Long out-of-context passage from the novel in italics unrelated to the stuff I am about to discuss in the review that sort of hangs there seeking an explanation and that also sounds somewhat profound and rubs off some cred on me for picking out such a seemingly perfect and deep-sounding line to whet your appetite even though you have probably skimmed the whole thing because you fail to see the relevance. (p679) Big hyperbolic opening. I have been to the Himalayas, Easter Island, Neptune, and Dundee, and never have I encountered words on the page that have rocked me to the core of my deep deep soul as this. I have kissed Cardinal Ratzinger’s mitre, Warren Zevon’s left pinkie, and Liam Neeson’s elbows, had five marriages and nine divorces, but nothing in my whole entire life compares to when I sat down and read this big-because-the-font-is-huge doorstop that everyone else loves and W.H. Smith agrees is a masterpiece. Now for the strange, shrink-ready “personal” response. Emotions can be emotional. We can gaze into our souls and find dark things there, like old bananas or burnt toast. Sometimes overcoming struggle can be a struggle and we need the love of loved ones to help us overcome the emotional struggles with our loved ones. Out hearts beat like metronomes alongside the hearts of everyone else on the planet’s hearts, which beat similarly, unless they have stopped. Those people are dead. Our families can be terrible and drive us to do crazy things, like burn down the house and run off with a My Chemical Romance groupie who leaves us penniless in the pub toilets after taking our virginity. It is reassuring to know that there are always people there for us, if we have enough mobile credit and remember the hotline to the Samaritans. Further exaggeration as to how this book changed my life, without ever getting into the specifics. The characters. The plot. The words. The pages. These have reshaped the entire structure of my life and will sit deep inside my heart forever, until the next book comes along that does the same thing and offers me the same reaction and I write the same review but with different swooning self-important waffle that is really about ME and MY LIFE and not really about the book at all, and shows that these books are never really appreciated for their artistry, but for the way they appear to touch our lives and appeal to the feelings and emotions we think we have that make us good people, when we aren’t too busy going about the everyday business of gratifying ourselves and never demonstrating one tenth of this well-deep so-called love-of-the-world by being kind to a person we haven’t allowed into our private little bubble of pre-tested and pre-approved people. Read this because I am more important than all of you. Now give me my 1,829 likes and I will ignore your comments except the ones that say how amazing I am.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Barry Pierce

    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, l 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.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    "We have art in order not to die from the truth." Nietzsche There are books inside which I have wanted to live. "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay". "The Alexandria Quartet". "The Great Gatsby". "Under The Volcano". "Dalva". "The Adventures of Augie March". "Belle du Seigneur". There are characters who are more real to me than many real-life people. Josef Kavalier. Jay Gatsby. Isabel Archer. Frank Bascombe. Tereza. Geoffrey Firmin. Jane Eyre. They live and speak and go on existing in "We have art in order not to die from the truth." Nietzsche There are books inside which I have wanted to live. "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay". "The Alexandria Quartet". "The Great Gatsby". "Under The Volcano". "Dalva". "The Adventures of Augie March". "Belle du Seigneur". There are characters who are more real to me than many real-life people. Josef Kavalier. Jay Gatsby. Isabel Archer. Frank Bascombe. Tereza. Geoffrey Firmin. Jane Eyre. They live and speak and go on existing in my mind, as tangible as the ripples and circles agitating the waters of the river which I can see from my window. Little fires burning in the winter light. I wanted to live inside "The Goldfinch". After a few pages, I knew I wanted to follow Theo Decker for the rest of my life and sit quietly in the corner of his mind as he experienced the world. Donna Tartt brought to life a mesmerizing and elusive New York, both bohemian and aristocratic, and cracked open its doors to let you in, awe-struck and exhilarated. Theo. Welty. Hobie. Pippa. Mrs. Barbour. Boris. A handful of unforgettable characters brought together by coincidence and chance in an astounding Phoenix of a book, continually rising from its ashes into different forms: thriller, Bildungsroman, philosophical treaty, coming of age tale, epic, travelogue, memoir. A novel that will etch itself into your mind with a pocket knife like an "I love you" into a tree. A pure act of love. Sublime.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    I’m told that mine is the deciding vote to establish this book’s place in history: masterpiece or meh. Well, I’ve given myself a week to think about it, and the fact that I did think about it skews it to the positive. But then the equivocator in me recognizes that controversial books often have strong pluses and minuses to consider. Here are the factors as I see them. A compelling plot. Plenty happens to make this more than just navel fixation. Thirteen-year-old New York City kid, Theo, had one g I’m told that mine is the deciding vote to establish this book’s place in history: masterpiece or meh. Well, I’ve given myself a week to think about it, and the fact that I did think about it skews it to the positive. But then the equivocator in me recognizes that controversial books often have strong pluses and minuses to consider. Here are the factors as I see them. A compelling plot. Plenty happens to make this more than just navel fixation. Thirteen-year-old New York City kid, Theo, had one good parent (a mom who genuinely cared for him) and one bad one (a booze hound who had abandoned them). Then, soon after Theo’s mom described what was special to her about the goldfinch painting they were looking at, a bomb went off in the museum and he lost his good one. Dazed, and before he learned of his mother’s fate, he heard the dying wishes of an antique dealer who had been there with his niece Pippa. Theo’s original optimism that he and his mom would soon be reunited gave way to the agonizing truth, and he had to scramble to avoid foster care. He ended up in the posh digs of a nerdy friend from school who had been a co-target of bullying earlier when they both skipped a grade. Theo was still reeling from his loss, but did manage to deliver an heirloom to the shop where the antique dealer had told him to go. There he met one of the kindest characters in all of litdom, a much needed ally named Hobie, along with Pippa who was recovering from the museum trauma. My rule in reviews is not to reveal more about the plot than what the inside flap does, so the only thing I’ll add is that Theo soon finds himself on the outskirts of Las Vegas, the object of indifferent (at best) child care, but able to survive when he teams up with a fellow hard luck case named Boris who could swear in multiple Eastern European languages and was wise to the ways of the world. Like any pulsating storyline, this one keeps the pages turning. (+) As bleak as any house Dickens could conjure. I googled “Tartt Goldfinch Dickensian” and came up with 62,300 hits. So yes, people have noticed the hardship. In and of itself, the gloom could be a (+) or a (-), but it tipped negative for me when the conflict, at times, felt contrived. And it was relentless. I was hoping the law of averages would give poor Theo a break every once in a while. To be fair I should mention that my misery tolerance may be compromised by the weather we’ve been having. (-) Poor decisions. The problem for me was not in Theo’s choices per se, but how inconsistent they sometimes seemed given his intellect, character and street smarts. At the same time, I have to remember how young he was when made many of them, and how leery a virtual orphan is apt to be to trust anyone in a position to help. (+/-) Resonating themes. Beauty, love, good vs. evil – as a big sprawling book, this one took its time and developed its notions well. I give extra credit, too, for the natural way philosophical conversations grew out of the story. When Hobie opined about what constitutes beauty and what its role is in our lives, his thoughts are backed by the long hours he spent restoring antique furniture. And when Boris talks about situational ethics, it’s with an insightful and accessible perspective from his own sordid past and from all the Dostoevsky he’s read. There were even moments of profundity that no doubt earn it literary plaudits. (+) Art appreciation. The Fabritius painting titled the same as the book is, not surprisingly, central to the story. It was analyzed and praised, its history was explained in detail, and Theo, as he narrated, recognized it as a metaphor, citing the small bird’s bravery to keep plugging away despite being chained to his perch. In fact, throughout the book there is a heightened artistic sensitivity. Theo went into the antiques business with a good eye for aesthetics. He also learned more than he might have liked about the art underworld. (+) Emotional honesty. Theo had issues, but he came by them in a plausible and understandable way. I felt way more empathy than antipathy for him. One of the harder things he had to deal with was a rather nasty pill habit. Given his heredity, his influences (primarily Boris) and the harshness of his early life, we don’t judge so much as relate. The book was also credible about the feelings Theo had for Pippa, whom he had idealized from a young age. (+) How many more pages anyway? It is long. And dense, too. That said, I was not so much bored as just ready to move on. Other books I got for Christmas were burning holes through the shelf. (-) Damn good writing. I guess in a way I’ve buried the lead: Donna Tartt writes really well. I heard she took a full decade to put this together, and it shows. The prose is crisp and refined; the research was first-rate; and her characters, even the minor ones, are nuanced and memorable. As a very small quibble, I sometimes felt like she would choose a slightly wrong word for a male narrator to use, but that was an increasingly rare feeling the more she drew me in to the story. The descriptions were the kind you wonder, thinking back, how such sharp pictures are etched in your mind when you never noticed any long passages that would have given them to you. I got that feeling several times, most noticeably when she described the antique shop where Hobie lived, the shell of a home in suburban Vegas, and the otherworldliness of Amsterdam (or at least of its underbelly). (+) Weighing the pluses and minuses puts this at a solid 4 stars for me. Despite wishing I could have finished it faster, the characters and great writing are likely to be the memories that last.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Fabian

    Only a reader not familiar with Dickens, especially "Great Expectations," will find the book amusing, even good. But while the conventions are indeed laudable, I cannot help but find the ultra-cool character of Boris an avatar of Fagan; the tale of two cities revamped into a dull threesome of perhaps the three most exciting cities--NYC, Vegas, Amsterdam; the teenage dawdling akin to Oliver Twist's-- they are, ultimately, safe & unoriginal. Where's the innovation, 2014's Oracle? This is a marb Only a reader not familiar with Dickens, especially "Great Expectations," will find the book amusing, even good. But while the conventions are indeed laudable, I cannot help but find the ultra-cool character of Boris an avatar of Fagan; the tale of two cities revamped into a dull threesome of perhaps the three most exciting cities--NYC, Vegas, Amsterdam; the teenage dawdling akin to Oliver Twist's-- they are, ultimately, safe & unoriginal. Where's the innovation, 2014's Oracle? This is a marble cake novel (the parts are extremely long, but, yes, contrasting enough to be, well, readable), & something a tad... unspecial. In the grand recipe of Pulitzer recipients, the paint-it-by-numbers kind, it doesn't take a genius to understand that key ingredients MUST exist in the beloved monster. Take incidents of terrorism ("American Pastoral"), incidents with goons of the underworld (alas, not "Goon Squad", but most definitely "Humboldt's Gift") & an overlong, overcooked, just preposterous ending ("Rabbit at Rest")--meditations on art, life, etc. etc. Gag. Gag. Gag. To keep it concise (a mercy sadly not granted to the reader of the latest Donna Tartt): It's a must to the Canon-&-Literary-Prize aficionado, and will be lauded as "great." But know, dear reader, that all the hype remains bafflingly undeserved.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte May

    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 th 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?”

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jaidee

    3 "up and down like a toilet seat in a mixed gender dormitory bathroom" stars. 2015 Book Where I Wished I Was Editor At 300 pages this book could have been a minor masterpiece. At 400 pages the book could have been excellent. Even at 500 pages the book had a likely chance of being very good. But at an astonishing 718 pages the book was overconfident in its own beauty, wisdom and dare I say its worthwhileness. I had four different experiences of reading this book: 15% of it was absolutely sublime, pro 3 "up and down like a toilet seat in a mixed gender dormitory bathroom" stars. 2015 Book Where I Wished I Was Editor At 300 pages this book could have been a minor masterpiece. At 400 pages the book could have been excellent. Even at 500 pages the book had a likely chance of being very good. But at an astonishing 718 pages the book was overconfident in its own beauty, wisdom and dare I say its worthwhileness. I had four different experiences of reading this book: 15% of it was absolutely sublime, profound, beautiful, profoundly beautifuly, beautifully sublime. You get the picture. There were moments when I was so choked with emotion that the boyfriend would pass me tissues as soon as he heard a sniffle. The loss of Theo's mother, his love of Hobie and Pippa, the comfort of the Goldfinch, the restrained desire for Boris and a few other emotional moments. These moments were poignant, heavy with gorgeousness and clearly unforgettable. 50% was like watching an art house film by Gregg Araki mixed with reruns of Melrose Place. I know this sounds strange but this is exactly what this was like for me. Truly entertained but rather numbing and in the end extraneous. 20% was gently trying to cajole Ms. Tartt (telepathically) to please cut out huge sections of the book that were superfluous, exhausting and unnecessary. 15% siliently and sometimes not so silently cursing Ms. Tartt for the written diarrhea that one has to go through until you get to another one of those absolutely stunning sections that were written about above. Ms. Tartt when you are "on" you are "bang on" but please please please find another editor.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jo

    Whaaaaat? Am I reading a different book from all of you people giving this five stars? I am halfway through this pretentious, nonsensical, self-indulgent, ridiculous THING, and I'm only forcing myself to finish because I paid $40 for this monstrosity. It is unconvincing on so many levels. Theo Decker does not ring true. He doesn't SOUND like a boy, for a start, and I'm hard-pressed to believe a thirteen-year old reads and understands the likes of Chekov, Thoreau and Emmerson. And why doesn't The Whaaaaat? Am I reading a different book from all of you people giving this five stars? I am halfway through this pretentious, nonsensical, self-indulgent, ridiculous THING, and I'm only forcing myself to finish because I paid $40 for this monstrosity. It is unconvincing on so many levels. Theo Decker does not ring true. He doesn't SOUND like a boy, for a start, and I'm hard-pressed to believe a thirteen-year old reads and understands the likes of Chekov, Thoreau and Emmerson. And why doesn't Theo have a cellphone? Tartt seems reluctant to accept that her book is set in the 21st century- even the laptop is locked away in his Dad's bedroom so emails are sparse- so why not set it in 1962 or somewhere more plausible? And Boris- what a ridiculous, implausible character: a polyglot who has lived all around the world in his fifteen years, had dazzling adventures, survived regular beatings from his equally unlikely father, spends a good part of his life starving and/or drunk, and has found time to read Chekov in Russian. His Soviet-flavoured lectures on the virtues of stealing only from faceless corporations make him sound like he's fifty. Every other character I've encountered so far is as flat as the paper its printed on. Mrs Barbour: aloof, icy Society Matron. Theo's dad: Bad Parent,only cares about money. Xandra (With an X, which takes about 200 words to explain):Trailer-Park Whore with a wee soft spot for furry animals.The Latino Doormen: Latino Doormen. Hobie: Dumbledore. The plot limps along. After the initial set-up (Mum dies in a bomb blast at an art museum and Theo washes up an almost-orphan, which takes forever), things just slope along with no real tension, mystery or sense of purpose to drive you from one page to the next. And EVERYTHING- each object, setting, conversation, item of clothing, facial feature, crack in the sidewalk, cloud in the sky,item of furniture,swirl of vomit in the toilet bowl - EVERYTHING thing is described in minute and tedious detail, irrespective of its relevance to anything at bloody all. I skipped whole pages I could see were going nowhere. Boris and Theo get drunk again and have a fight? Woohoo! Boris gets the bash from his dad? So what- nothing happens as a consequence, and the boys carry on like two washed up old tramps from a Beckett play - oh, but pardon me for dropping in a pretentious and pointless literary allusion to a text read by no thirteen-year-ever.Or to every orphan story every written- Harry Potter, Great Expectations, Huck Finn (who Boris is supposed to be I suppose). It's probably meant to be terribly clever but just seems obvious. And another thing. Dialogue is peppered with question marks at the end of sentences which aren't questions. I suppose it's to indicate an upward vocal inflection? Like how teens speak? It's silly and irritating. Sigh. I suppose there is some symbolic MEANING to the painting of the goldfinch and I suppose the girl with the red hair will reappear sometime to break Theo's heart (if he's not gay, which it sort of sounds like he is)- but there is no urgency, no ticking clock, nothing to make me care one way or another. 300 pages to go. Wish me luck. *UPDATE* I finished it. Tempted to increase the rating to two stars because it does improve a little halfway through- at least the plot picks up. There is a PROBLEM all of a sudden (the missing element in the first half), which makes things a little interesting, if no more believable. I was right about the girl (so too predictable) and almost right about the other thing. But (Spoiler Alert)- how is it remotely possible that Theo would not have heard of the death of Andy and (silly name) Chase? Did he not read a paper or watch the news for eight years? They were New York Society, so their sudden demise would hardly go unremarked. And Boris's reappearance is just too coincidental. And the relationship issue: again, not at all believable. Surely Kitsey /Cutesy can make up her own mind about a man and not choose one just to please Mummy, especially knowing he is a total stoner. The endless drug-taking is really tedious too. But back to the Problem; here's the problem with the Problem. The solution to the Problem is so simple, so easy, so obvious and so anti-climactic that it should have occurred to everyone two hundred pages earlier and saved me several hours of my life I'll never get back. And the ending- oh spare me- fifty-something pages that go on, and on, and on about Beauty and Art and Meaning. Which is all very noble and true I guess but so many others have said the same thing so much better, in fewer words. Still one star.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Abby

    The first 600 pages of this book are a gripping read. Tartt creates sympathetic protagonists that you want to root for and fast-paced adventures and predicaments in which you want to see them succeed. Tartt owes a great debt to Dickens in the story's plot, characters, and pathos. Theo Decker is shockingly and suddenly orphaned one ordinary day after a bomb rips through the Metropolitan Museum and his mother perishes while admiring her favorite paintings. Of course, she was beautiful, smart, and p The first 600 pages of this book are a gripping read. Tartt creates sympathetic protagonists that you want to root for and fast-paced adventures and predicaments in which you want to see them succeed. Tartt owes a great debt to Dickens in the story's plot, characters, and pathos. Theo Decker is shockingly and suddenly orphaned one ordinary day after a bomb rips through the Metropolitan Museum and his mother perishes while admiring her favorite paintings. Of course, she was beautiful, smart, and possessed of a heart of gold. His father, on the other hand, is a charming con artist who has abandoned them to live with another woman in Las Vegas. Theo has high and low adventures (hopscotching from a tony apartment on the Upper East Side with the blue-blooded Barbours to a seedy desert neighborhood in Las Vegas after his father shows up to reclaim him). Tartt is adept at creating vivid scenes and landscapes (her descriptions of Las Vegas' arid beauty are gorgeous), but she has a tendency to fall back on familiar (and sometimes, cliched) stereotypes. Of course, the Barbours are troubled in that particularly WASP-y, repressed way. Of course, his new Russian pal, Boris, reads Dostoevsky and cynically pontificates on life and politics while waving his arms about and drinking vodka. And of course, his eventual savior and guardian, Hobie, comes with an alluring ward who will forever haunt him and claim his love, a la Estella in Great Expectations. I really enjoyed the first 600 pages of the novel. I thought Tartt revealed a lot about modern America and what it means to be successful (or striving) in America today as she unfurled the brisk plot. However, the last 100-150 pages, with its metaphysical and existential pontificating, did little to advance the plot and ultimately caused me to become less invested in the book and its characters. That is unfortunate, since I was rooting for Theo, Boris, and Pippa right up until the very end.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Luffy

    One point docked for a less than stellar pace of the last third. Otherwise it's a feast for the eyes and a delight for the senses. The Goldfinch is about maturity and picking up the pieces when life lets you down. Going on with your life when the portal to hell is opened, is a daunting task. Theo, the hero of this book (kinda), is traveling away from his demons, trying to cobble together enough positive images to keep his sanity intact. He is stabbed, sometimes in the back. In the end I would recom One point docked for a less than stellar pace of the last third. Otherwise it's a feast for the eyes and a delight for the senses. The Goldfinch is about maturity and picking up the pieces when life lets you down. Going on with your life when the portal to hell is opened, is a daunting task. Theo, the hero of this book (kinda), is traveling away from his demons, trying to cobble together enough positive images to keep his sanity intact. He is stabbed, sometimes in the back. In the end I would recommend The Goldfinch because it's a different book from its contemporaries. It's deep and wise and has respect for the abilities of its readers. People need to read it once at least.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Dem

    2.5 Stars Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is one of those books that not only are you investing your hard earned money in you are investing a huge amount of reading time as this novel has just under 790 pages. I rarely read novels that are more than 600 pages and if I do they really need to hold my interest and I have to be honest Goldfinch was a very long drawn out novel and the plot failed to impress me although I did finish the book but this was more out of my ability to stick with it than any great 2.5 Stars Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is one of those books that not only are you investing your hard earned money in you are investing a huge amount of reading time as this novel has just under 790 pages. I rarely read novels that are more than 600 pages and if I do they really need to hold my interest and I have to be honest Goldfinch was a very long drawn out novel and the plot failed to impress me although I did finish the book but this was more out of my ability to stick with it than any great interest in how it would end. There is a lot to admire about the novel as the writing is excellent and the characters are very well drawn and the sense of time and place is excellent. The first 100 pages were extremely well written and I was really engrossed with the story but then it just dragged on and on for me from there. I probably would have loved this novel if it was about two/three hundred pages shorter. I really disliked constant reference to drugs in the story and I understand they belonged in the book but I got fed up of long descriptions of drug taking and types of drugs throughout the story. I was actually disappointed with how little the story was about the painting in the end. The book fell down for me on the plot, just too many pages and not enough drama. I know others have loved this book but this review is only my opinion and I would advise reading some of the 4/5 star reviews before deciding.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lynne King

    And my final reading disaster of the year… This is a veritable tome comprising 771 pages. The book looked the part. The story appeared to be very interesting about Theo Decker, who has loved and lost, who enters the criminal underworld, an individual who finally makes a marvellous discovery in life and then, of course, there is his talisman, the painting of “The Goldfinch". I also love Goldfinches and often photograph them in the garden if I can be in the right place with the camera at the right And my final reading disaster of the year… This is a veritable tome comprising 771 pages. The book looked the part. The story appeared to be very interesting about Theo Decker, who has loved and lost, who enters the criminal underworld, an individual who finally makes a marvellous discovery in life and then, of course, there is his talisman, the painting of “The Goldfinch". I also love Goldfinches and often photograph them in the garden if I can be in the right place with the camera at the right time. It’s a beautifully published book and I also was taken with the additional touch of the photo of “The Goldfinch” which is loosely tacked onto the frontispiece. The glowing reviews assured me that it was a 2013 literary masterpiece. It’s very well written too. So where did it all go wrong, well for me anyway? Perhaps the contradictory comment by Albert Camus before Chapter one says it all? The absurd does not liberate; it binds. I felt oddly cynical about the first sentence of the book as similar words are so often used at the beginning in novels: While I was still in Amsterdam, I dreamed about my mother for the first time in years. I automatically thought about “Rebecca” for some obscure reason. It’s sad hearing about Theo losing his mother in tragic circumstances and to think that he admits after so many years he’s never met anyone who made him feel loved in the way she did. I always like reading about New York but still I couldn’t get into the story. I don’t know why and then I started to skim read looking for that magical literary work I was sure was there. But it wasn’t there. Individuals such as Goldie, Boris and Xandra floated by…as if in a dream. There were some magical sections such as the following, and the referrals to love, but still not enough to entice me: And as much as I’d like to believe there’s truth beyond illusion, I’ve come to believe that there’s no truth beyond illusion. Because, between ‘reality’ on the one hand, and the point where the mind strikes reality, there’s a middle zone, a rainbow edge where beauty comes into being, where two different surfaces mingle and blur to provide what life does not: and this is the space where all art exists, and all magic. I have such a sense of regret here. Perhaps this book is not right for me at this period in time. Perhaps personal reasons have subconsciously entered into the equation. I will place it next to my beloved “The Alexandria Quartet” on the bookshelf to remind me of it and I may read it in the future.

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