Tag Archives: Pulitzer Prize Winner

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.

Review: A Visit from the Goon Squad

A Visit from the Goon Squad
A Visit from the Goon Squad
By Jennifer Egan
(Anchor, Paperback, 9780307477477, March 2011, 352pp.)

The Short of It:

Creatively, disarming.

The Rest of It:

The question asked by many, “Is this a novel or a collection of short stories?” I am leaning towards “novel” but if it is, it’s not done in a traditional way. The narrative structure is what everyone talks about. It’s made up of 13 chapters, one of which happens to be a PowerPoint presentation and although not immediately connected, they do circle around to revisit the same characters but in a different time and place.

The handling of time, is really what this novel is about. How time slips away without you realizing it. How you are a speck on the timeline of your life and how you move forward, influenced by events of the past. There are lots of characters in this novel, but what they all have in common is that they all seem to be chasing time in some way.

Of the many characters, my favorite was Dolly, aka La Doll. In her day, Dolly was THE most sought-after publicist around but after a disastrous party, a party where hot oil rains down upon her guests, she finds herself trying to resurrect her popularity, doing business out of her living room and working with difficult clients. In an attempt to chase the past, she finds herself in similar trouble and at some point, has to admit that her ship has sailed. Dolly’s story is the one that seemed the most tragic to me, mainly because here she is, a mom with a young girl trying to make ends meet. I think any mother could relate to her plight. But, the other characters are also interesting and with the novel centered loosely around rock and roll, I found myself quite taken with these characters as they interacted with one another.

There were moments  sprinkled throughout that held my interest and then there were sections that just lost me, like the PowerPoint presentation that I mentioned above. Witty? Possibly. Distracting? Yes! Maybe if the subject matter of the presentation was something that I actually cared about, I would have been more tolerant of it, but it was about pauses in music. The longest pause. The shortest pause.  I mean, who the hell cares besides this kid who is sharing it with us? I didn’t really see a reason to inject this type of content into the story, besides to bring attention to itself.

I didn’t love this book, although I found parts of it good, if not very good. It was a little too disjointed for me and I was often distracted by the structure itself. It’s not a book that you can put down, and then easily pick up again. I almost always had to re-read some of the previous chapter before going on to the next one and who wants to do that? Initially the book charms you to the point where you let down your guard and then after just a few chapters, you throw your arms back up again.

If you read Egan’s other book, The Keep, you’ll find that Goon is a completely different book so don’t expect them to be alike in any way. I don’t think they could be more different!

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