Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Book Review: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt


Title: The Goldfinch
Author: Donna Tartt
Publisher: Little, Brown, and Company
Publication Date: October 22, 2013
Source: personal purchase

Summary from Goodreads

A young boy in New York City, Theo Decker, miraculously survives an accident 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. 


My Review:

Okay, wow Goodreads, way to provide the most underwhelming summary EVER of this nearly-800-page novel-monster.  Kinda hoping my review can do it justice a bit more than that.

Where to begin with The Goldfinch?  So much hype has been generated already, my piddly little review matters very little in the grand scheme of things.  But I will generously provide my two cents anyway!  Let me summarize this way: I often have a tough time with really (REALLY) long novels, and movies too.  My husband and I recently went to see The Wolf of Wall Street, which in typical Scorsese form, is 3 hours long.  At the end, I turned to him and said, "I know that was a good long movie, because I didn't start checking my watch after the first 2 hours went by."  That's how I feel about long novels too.  If I get about 2/3 of the way through, and start obsessively watching the percentage counter on my Kindle, praying and hoping that it will move JUST A LITTLE FASTER, I know me and that book are probably not going to be friends for life.  (Here's looking at you, 1Q84.)

Did The Goldfinch take a long time to read?  Yes.  But was it an enjoyable long time?  YES.  By the end, I was amazed at the amount of ground that Tartt had covered in 800 pages.  The main character (Theo) experiences the devastating loss of his mother at the very beginning of the novel, and during that incident, comes into possession of a painting of said goldfinch.  And pretty much every other major thing that happens to Theo for the next 700 pages, good and bad, happens because of this painting...sometimes in very odd and unexpected ways.

Major kudos to Tartt for the crazy chain of events that she manages to create.  It's funny...I'm currently reading a novel that is about 1/3 the size of The Goldfinch, but the author has managed to make the plot too complex and character-heavy (in terms of number of characters), to the point where it's just hard to follow.  But Tartt has created a novel that is epic in scope, without being overwhelming in plot detail or character complexity.  Plus, Theo is one of the most convincingly depressing characters I've ever encountered.  This guy can wax poetic on the pointlessness of life like no other...it's really rather impressive.  Some of the best passages, in my opinion, came from the times he pondered whether his life was worth living.  Which probably says nothing good about me, but I stand by my claim.

The only potentially weak point for me was the ending.  If you've ever read War and Peace, you know that after the "action" of the plot ends, Tolstoy tacked on 2 epilogues that were all philosophical and whatnot.  (Wow, best review of War and Peace ever, award goes to me.)  They were disappointing for me, mostly because I thought the ACTUAL ending itself was pretty good, and I could have thought about the philosophical stuff on my own if I wanted to.  Didn't need to read a long-arse epilogue to get to the crux of it.  I felt the same way about this book.  The plot action ends (and that ending is really, really good), but then there's all this deep, insightful brouhaha after that that I didn't love.  Some of it was great, don't get me wrong, but a lot of it just felt like "blah blah blah" to me, full of deep thoughts that I would have rather discovered on my own in a book club discussion or some such.

That is probably just me though, given the fact that this book is like, critically-acclaimed and stuff.  (Not to mention...War and Peace...yeah, my esteemed literary opinion probably doesn't change the general consensus on that one either.)

Bottom line: this book is worth the hype, and I promise the journey is worth every single one of its many pages.

What was your last good chunkster, friends?

22 comments:

  1. I am looking forward to getting to this one, someday, eventually. I'm not big on long books either, but I keep hearing this is worth the read, so I am eager to try it out.

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    1. It's tough when a well-hyped book is also so long...I feel like that usually keeps it on the TBR much longer. Not sure what pushed me into this one more quickly than usual.

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  2. I can't wait to read it! I said it was going to be this month, but we'll see if it actually is. I hope it is. I have no control, though. My mood rules the roost.

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  3. My last good chunkster is probably Gone with the Wind, which I read about two years ago... I'm sure I've read other long books since then, but not ones that have stuck with me, I guess.

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    1. I think GWTW is on my "30 before 35" list so I should give that one a try soon!

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  4. You're so right about Tartt's ability to balance her characters perfectly within the space. I absolutely adored this book and think it's going to end up being one of my longtime favorites.

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    1. It gets better in my mind, the longer I'm away from it. The meat of the novel was so enveloping, I kept forgetting about that first part, in Amsterdam...every time I remembered it, I was excited again to figure out where it all would lead.

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  5. LMAO @ you vs. War and Peace. Still looking forward to tackling this one!

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    1. I mean really, who can write a better review of War and Peace than that? Anyone? Bueller?

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  6. I have this big fat book loaded on my Kindle and I'm looking forward to it. :D FAB review, my lady!

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    1. You know, it DID help having it on Kindle...the size didn't feel quite so intimidating! haha.

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  7. Ok, you've convinced me. I wasn't too bothered before because I'd read mixed reviews, but I like what you've said. My last chunkster was GWTW and I loved it, although I'm currently reading Anna Karenina and enjoying that, too.

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    1. Glad I could give you the push! I haven't read GWTW yet, but I did read Anna Karenina several years ago...it took a while to get through (ah, those complicated Russian names...) but it was worth the extra effort.

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  8. I reallllllly need to get to this one. So glad to hear it's worth it!

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    1. It was on sale for Kindle a while back (I think that's why I ended up buying it)...maybe another sale will come up to push you into it soon :)

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  9. I don't read books this long very often any more, maybe because blogging makes me want to read and review quickly. This one sounds like its worth the investment of some time though, so I'm going to do my best to fit it in this year :) Great review!

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    1. I know what you mean about reading and reviewing quickly. That's honestly why I haven't done a lot of chunksters since I started this blog. This one is worth it though!

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  10. I bought this one when it was on sale on Black Friday, the same day I purchased Burial Rites, and I can't wait to start reading it!!! Everyone is raving about how awesome it is!!

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    1. Yes I got it during the Black Friday sale too! Awesome deal.

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  11. I'm saving this chunkster for the summer, the last great one I read was Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries and before the Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah, both excellent reads!

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    1. I have heard awesome things about The Luminaries, that might have to be my next big one.

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