Review: ‘The Goldfinch’

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The Goldfinch

By Donna Tartt

  • Date finished: Aug. 24, 2013
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Year: 2013 (coming out in October)
  • Project: n/a
  • Reading List: Summer 2013
  • Grade: A+
  • Thoughts upon finishing: 

When I first saw The Goldfinch in our weekly shipment at Books-A-Million, as part of our regular shipment of advanced readers copies, I took no prisoners. We’re allowed to take whatever ARCs we want as long as we run it by a manager, and so I snatched that book up so fast, only the supervisor at hand knew anything about it. I wanted that book bad.

Why? Everyone on the freakin’ internet has been a-chatter about it, specifically all the literary book bloggers I follow. Something was up about this book, and even though I had never read Donna Tartt before, I knew she must be something special.

Let me tell you, The Goldfinch definitely is that something special. Tartt tells the story of Theo, a young boy who survives a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a blast that kills his mother. In the fog after the explosion, and confused by a strange bond he forms with a dying elderly man, Theo takes a small painting from the rubble – The Goldfinch – and escapes.

The rest of the book outlines Theo’s turbulent childhood and young adulthood, during which he’s passed from the family of a rich friend on the upper East Side, to his alcoholic father living in Las Vegas, to a New York antique shop where he finds love and friendship. Throughout it all, the painting – and the bundle of emotions attached to it – travels with him as he finds a way to deal with that early loss.

What can I say about The Goldfinch except…I loved it. I was completely taken away by this book. I could settle into this book and be happy not emerging for hours. Donna Tartt is brilliant with language, making The Goldfinch a wonderful reading experience. She could have been writing about aliens on the moon, and I still would have found it engaging. While some passages were a little too wordy, Tartt clearly experiences the world a little more deeply than most people, and that sensitivity is reflected in every glance and sigh of her characters. However, Tartt is not just creating characters, she is creating people.

The book is long – more than 700 pages, and like I said, some of it is a little wordy. There’s only one big time jump in the book, making the plot sometimes feel like you’re plodding through Theo’s diary. There’s some stream of consciousness, and it can get a little old. In addition, I had a hard time figuring out where the crux of the book was: the majority of the book was spent on Theo’s childhood, with a large chunk devoted to his drug-addled days living with his father in Las Vegas. However, it’s only at the end that the painting really comes into play, so I’m left wondering: is this book about Theo, or Theo’s painting?

But maybe it was about both, and I think that regardless of my confusion, the book plays out at a good pace, with plenty of heart to keep you glued to your reading chair. Seriously, if The Goldfinch wasn’t 700+ pages, this would have been an “up all night” book. I was absolutely heartbroken, at times, by Theo’s story, and while reading, would randomly sink into introspective musings about love, death, relationships and all sorts of heavy stuff. This book didn’t leave me with the warm and fuzzies, but it took a little bit out of me, made it better, and then made me better.

So yes, I am joining the ranks of all the other gushing book bloggers when I say: when this book comes out in October, read it. Please.

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3 thoughts on “Review: ‘The Goldfinch’

  1. Pingback: 2013: A Year in Reading | Paperback Fool

  2. Pingback: Sentences to knock your socks off | Paperback Fool

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