Saturday 21 December 2013

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

I had planned to read The Goldfinch over my summer holiday break. A chunkster, lazy days lying by the pool & late, wine-infused nights sounded perfect to me!

But then I began to read and hear the rumblings of unhappy readers. Disappointed reviews because The Goldfinch didn't live up to The Secret History. Concern over the unnecessary length - the drawn-out, self-indulgent, repetitive passages.

Was The Goldfinch sumptuous or inert? Lavish or a flight of fancy? Exquisite or uneven? Triumphant or tedious? Dickensian or dishwater?

I couldn't risk packing such a big book for my holidays to have it flop.

So I started it last week.

And I wish I'd saved it for my holidays!!

It's the kind of book that deserves long, lazy days completely devoted to reading. The kind of uninterrupted, distraction free, immersive reading days that fuelled my childhood.

I think that's where the negative reviews may be coming from - reviewers unable to immerse themselves into the world of this book, unable to let go & allow themselves to go along for the journey, but instead, caught up in a busy schedule with demands on their time and unable to lose a week of their time to a chunkster.

I get that.
There are times and there are books that I can't get into or get lost in myself because of the other stuff going on around me.

But luckily for me, and for The Goldfinch, I was ready to get lost in a good book. I wanted an excuse to escape the crazy, busyness of the pre-Christmas rush. I needed another world to disappear into.

The early sections of The Goldfinch where Tartt re-imagines another 9/11 style terrorist strike on the Met are stunning with their horror, randomness and chaotic slowness. The following chapters detailing Theo's grief are authentic and heart-wrenching.

The tale of the post-traumatic orphaned boy and what would become of him had me in it's grip completely.

Well almost.

Out of the blue, my interest began to wane.

The stay with the Barbours in NY was just stretching out a little too long, when suddenly bam! something happened.

Then Theo's alcohol & drug crazed time in Las Vegas with Boris was just starting to feel a little ridiculous when bam! something happened.

Then we suddenly jumped 8 years and bam! Theo meets someone from his past on the streets of New York. Instead of being in the grip of the story, I'm becoming aware of the writer and the writing process. The magic dust has worn off.

My early concern for Theo is beginning to ebb away. With every shoddy deal, with every drug snorted, my care factor is slipping away.

How am I going to summon up the energy to finish this book?


I wrote the above last night & planned to post it on my way to work this morning after giving it one last edit.

But I've done something drastic in the meantime.

I gave up.

I tried to read a little more before going to bed  - about Theo's unrequited love for Pippa  - and I realised I couldn't care less.
But I needed to know that Hobie was okay, since he was the one believable character in the whole thing.
So I jumped to the last chapter - where we suddenly find Theo philosophising to his unknown future reader about life, death and art!!!!!

Hobie was okay, disillusioned, but okay.
And Theo? To be perfectly frank, I don't give a shit anymore!


  1. Anonymous21/12/13 sum up..." Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn"! Thank you for doing the hard work....this book is done and dusted in my opinion, Time to enjoy something you really like!

    1. My thoughts exactly Nancy!
      My ccspin #4 The Brothers Karamazov is much more satisfying.

  2. I've not read any of Donna Tartt's novels and I'm not convinced that I want to. Something with so much hype is not necessarily a good thing. Thanks for such an honest review!

  3. I read several reviews from people who loved this book, but none of them made me want to read the book. Your review confirms that I don't need to look for it.

  4. I've been very curious about this book, but I can't just slip in an 800 page book into my schedule very easily. What a shame that you didn't like it. Good on you for stopping though Brona. I never can quite manage that, and drag it out. I'm still curious, I did love The Secret History a lot, even though the memory has faded to almost nothing.

  5. Anonymous22/12/13

    Uh oh. I just picked up a copy (cheap, thank goodness), after a coworker kept telling me how it was one of the best books she'd read all year! Honestly, I think I take your opinion more seriously than hers... and now that I've read your thoughts, I think I'll put this one on hold for a while. I'm sorry it didn't work out for you -- but thank you for sharing your thoughts!


    1. Don't give up entirely Lisa.
      I found the beginning fabulously mesmerising...such promise! I just got tired of all the gratuitous drug-taking as the book went along....

  6. I am determined to read this one, but for me picking the right time to start it will be critical - as you say, you need the time to be able to immerse yourself in chunksters otherwise they can start to feel like hardwork...

  7. Donna Tartt reveals this central truth with astonishingly deft mastery. The novel left me with a deeply profound admiration for what she has created in The Goldfinch, and the sublime nature of her literary skills. The Goldfinch is, truly, the most unforgettable novel I have ever read, in my 50 years of reading and studying fiction.
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  8. Anonymous23/7/14

    Very nice review. I liked it.

  9. I read this a few years ago and I feel similar to you, I have no problem with long books. This as my first book by Tartt and in the early parts of the book I was drawn in right away. But like you said it seemed to go on and on and something would happen. It felt tiresome especially when the main character went to love with his dad, some interesting parts but probably one of my least favorite parts. I just felt like it took forever for something to happen and then when it did I would be disappointed. This book did not motivate me in the least to read more by the author.

    1. The Secret History left me underwhelmed as well. I enjoyed it well enough but simply couldn't understand what all the fuss was about.

  10. It took me a while to be able to post a comment.,,,but I have to say I felt excited about this book initially. It started with great promise but look you,after awhile I could care less. I wanted the book to be over so I read it over time and was disappointed by the end. Tartt seems to be a great writer but this just felt over the top. I have not been convinced to read any of her other books

    1. Welcome to blogger commenting!!

      But thank you for persisting. All your comments went to moderation as these are older posts (I deleted the duplicates).

      I've met a few people who loved this book from start to finish, but lots more like you & I. A good editor might have helped.


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