Review: The Goldfinch


The Goldfinch
The Goldfinch
By Donna Tartt
(Little, Brown and Company, Hardcover, 9780316055437,  October 2013, 784pp.)

The Short of It:

Memory, in and of itself, has the ability to restore and destroy.

The Rest of It:

While visiting a New York art museum, Theodore Decker, thirteen, is separated from his mother in an explosion that leaves him dazed and confused. In the immediate moments after the blast, Theo sees, and takes, a valuable painting for safekeeping. Not fully understanding what has happened or why, he stumbles out of the rubble but his life is forever frozen in time. When he realizes he has lost his dear mother, he finds himself floating through life, encountering many obstacles along the way and revisiting those final moments in the museum over and over again.

This is one hell of a book.

It’s long and I know some readers who won’t even touch it because of its length but they are really doing themselves a disservice because it is really a fine piece of work. I had planned to read it “someday” but when it was chosen for book club, I was pushed encouraged to read it a little bit sooner than I had planned and then it was awarded the Pulitzer which piqued my interest even more.

The Goldfinch  is an adventure. It meanders, there is action but not that much of it and it’s repetitive when it comes to behaviors like the excessive drinking and drug use that riddle its pages. But even with all of this going on, it’s incredibly heartbreaking and yes, beautiful. At first glance, Theo seems to be handling his loss quite well, but with each page, his pain and devastation become more real, more tangible and he becomes more reliant on the actions of others to save him. Not to mention the painting and the significance behind him taking it in the first place. Its purpose, so it seems, is to remind him of that fateful day but as it certainly does just that, it’s also a constant reminder of what he needs to do to keep it safe.

This is a book with some memorable characters too. Boris, the Ukrainian kid Theo hooks up with, is part hoodlum, part philosopher but more than anything, Theo’s best friend. Think “The Artful Dodger”. Popper, a mutt that Theo takes pity on, ends up being a loyal companion to Theo and one cannot forget Hobie, the lovable furniture maker who takes Theo in when he has nowhere else to go. These unlikely characters come together to essentially save Theo from himself, but it’s not always evident that that is what is happening. There are lots of pitfalls along the way and the journey can be tedious, but in the end, I found myself loving the story, wishing I had taken more time with the last few pages. It’s about love and trust and redemption and what’s not to like with its art world setting?

Talking about it here, I realize just how much I miss the characters. So, even though it’s long and intimidating to some, I urge you to pick it up because it’s really a book to experience first-hand.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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38 Responses

  1. My favorite read of 2013! Glad u loved it.

  2. Yes, yes, yes, this is what I’m told. Countless times. My thought was that I would try to get my hands on the audio, which is the only hope I’d have of getting through this one. If it is that good, I can’t miss out on it.

  3. I’m so glad you loved this book! It was my favorite last year!

    • I remember you loving it. It’s funny because I really had no desire to read it. Had it not been for book  club I am not sure I would have ever gotten to it. 

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  4. I normally shun long novels, but I recently faced my fear and bought a copy of Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy, which I’m managing to get through without agony, so on this recommendation, I will try The Goldfinch. I did love The Secret History.

    • Agony? I’m impressed. I think I would like that one, given the subject matter.  As for Goldfinch, give yourself time to read it. It really needs to be read and pondered and because of its length, I think many try to push through it. I am going to  re-read it at some point. For the last half, I did the rush thing since it was a book club book and I was so far behind schedule. I regret that now. 

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  5. Wonderful review, thank you. This is, without a doubt, my favourite book of 2013. I can’t quite decide yet, but I think I live it even more than The Secret History which is almost (but not quite) my favourite book of all time. I loved it so much that, despite finishing it some time ago, I haven’t been able to review it at all.

    • I have both The Secret History and The Little Friend but haven’t read either of them…yet. I certainly will now. 

      It’s hard to review a book when you love it. At least, for me it’s hard. I finished The Goldfinch and then  figured I’d have no way to express my feelings for it so I sat on it for awhile and then stumbled through it. Whew. 

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  6. I read this with my book club and we all loved it. It is long and does meander from time to time but when I finished it, I realized every last word of it was necessary.

    • I think a little could have been trimmed out but for the most part, I feel the same as you and it took me  a few days to feel that way. I want to buy a PB version as soon as it comes out. I read it on my Kindle and that % tracker was stuck at 65% for so long it drove me nuts! 

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  7. I was thinking of reading this so the review was super helpful! Thank you :)

  8. It is fun that so many of my friends have read this and enjoyed it. It is my go-to book question when I meet a new friend who reads, “Have you read The Goldfinch yet?” It is a good litmus test. :)

    • I became even more fascinated with it once I listened to an interview she gave about the book.  She is a very interesting person. 

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  9. Loved your review of this one – makes me happy I kindled it after all. Now I’m really looking forward to it ;)

  10. Donna Tartt should send you her next book free because with this review I’m sure you’ve sold her a few copies ;) I was leaning away from reading it, but now I am very excited to pick it up! I was saddened to see the harsh reactions from some bloggers when she won the prize even without having read her book myself. It seemed so mean-spirited to tarnish her moment whether you had another favorite book or not.

    • If you remember last year, no award was handed out even though they had chosen books for the shortlist. How could they even do that? So for this year, with only the three and me not having read the other two, I can’t say whether she deserved it or not but I’ve never been much of an “award” reader anyway. I like to think I am but usually I will read a winning book and scratch my head over it. 

      Do I think it could have been edited down… yes but in the end it seemed as if every drop of her blood was in this book so after turning that last page,  I didn’t really care about the editing all that much. Just give yourself time and know that it’s a journey. 

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  11. I have been on the fence about this one, mostly because of the size, I think, but it does sound good and so many people I know have loved it. I am glad you did too. :-)

  12. Wow. I’m not familiar with the author or the book, but your review is terrific. I may look into this one.

    • She also wrote The Secret History and The Little Friend, also chunksters but I have yet to read them.  She is a very interesting character. If you ever come across a video interview with her, watch it because she has some interesting things to say about her writing process. 

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  13. I’ll have to check this out at some point. When I have time for a chunkster

  14. So glad to see you enjoyed this! It was my favorite book of last year and I started to wonder if everyone was going to hate it because of all the hype. I think it’s one I’m going to come back to several times – it’s just such a wonderful story.

  15. Enjoyed the book too. An unusual journey. As I recall, the ending dragged on a bit so I can understand your maybe rushing through it as I did. But I still gave it a 5.

  16. I’m still on the fence here but only because of recent memory. I’m actually looking forward to reading it, so hopefully, I’ll get to it early next year.

  17. Not that anyone would ever tell Donna Tartt this, especially after winning the Pulitzer for this one, but I do think 40-50 pages could have been cut from this without losing anything. That being said, it was well, well worth the work it was to read it. I’m not sure I’ve ever had such a visceral feel for settings as I did with The Goldfinch. Did you notice how the feel of New York entirely changed when Theo returned. Amazing writing. My book club loved it if they stuck out the slow parts.

    • Yes. The NY vibe was very different when he returned but we were also without Boris for awhile and he had become such a regular occurrence that I almost went through withdrawals over not having him around. 

      In that interview I listened to, she said she wrote over 800 pages that had to do with Platt’s suspicious dealings and that she couldn’t find a way to make it work so she took it out. 800 pages!! I did wonder about him because many times it seemed like he had more of a story to tell. 

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  18. This seems to be one of those books that you either loved or hated, I have yet to read a middle of the road review of this one. I read The Secret History years, upon years ago, and really don’t remember that much about her writing. I’m thinking that I will read this one someday, but I’ll probably not be in too great of a hurry to do so.

    • I do think its length does it in for a lot of folks. If you can’t get through it, you can’t realize or see the beauty in it. You really have to get to the end to see that payoff. 

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  19. I’ll get to it Ti. It’s in the someday pile but I know it’ll likely come sooner than that. Glad you liked it

  20. I am at 70% and I can’t finish it still. It picks you up and lets you down. Like you said Long and Meandering, despite some parts that I like, I wish it would end soon. :S

  21. I just read your review and loved it! I loved the novel and was disappointed when certain people turned on Ms. Taart after she won the Pulitzer. I thought “The Goldfinch” was a definitive example of fiction at its finest winning the Pulitzer. I’m kind of at a loss thinking of how Brett Ratner who did all the Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker “Rush Hour” movies will handle the film rights for Warner Bros., but I guess we have to wait and see.

  22. I bailed after the first 100 pages. Mediocre, redundant, tedious. I am baffled by the hoopla this novel has caused. The Secret History was so much better.

    • With The Goldfinch, I don’t think you even hit the tip of the iceberg at 100 pages!! It was so long and took a  lot of time to get to where it was going. 

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  23. Boris was great, but the darn thing was just toooooooo long, it didn’t need to be that long:)

  24. The ending is one of the best I’ve read, not because it comes to a resolution, but more that it really makes you think after you close the final pages of the story.

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