Short description: This book follows a boy who has lost his mother in a terrible event from childhood through early adulthood. Somehow (you'll see), hShort description: This book follows a boy who has lost his mother in a terrible event from childhood through early adulthood. Somehow (you'll see), he comes into possession of an incredibly valuable, rare, and historic painting: The Goldfinch. It becomes a part of him- a tether to his mother and a source of guilt and the base of a young lifetime of illicit behavior. The boy is bounced from home to home, has a lot of terrible luck, and eventually brings a lot of terrible luck on to himself. The people in his life are complex and varied- although described only from the boy's perspective, these are full characters. The novel is very heavy in plot, with adventures from a massive terrorist event to an international gang fight to romance and family drama. It is also very heavy in description; each part of the boy's life is impeccably described-- it's no wonder Tartt takes so long to write her novels- the research required must be immense.
I loved this book. It's long & very detailed, but I felt like I could get lost in the descriptions & run away to become a furniture restorer/antiques dealer myself. The boy himself is not particularly likable- I wanted to like him, but he can be truly terrible and disappointing throughout the novel. However, he is a very believable character, and not liking him did not diminish the story for me in the least. I still empathized with him and the other characters in his life, and I enjoyed the complex, rambling plot.
I recommend this book for anyone who doesn't mind long, Dickensian descriptions (which are kind of fun and a little surprising to read set in this time period- whenever things like the internet and cell phones were mentioned I realized how much her writing style was taking me to another place in time despite myself). Also, it's a great book for anyone who loves art, antiques, and/or NYC. ...more
Full disclosure- this is by my aunt. Obviously I want to give it 5 stars, but I don't like to rate books by people I know & love. However, I noticFull disclosure- this is by my aunt. Obviously I want to give it 5 stars, but I don't like to rate books by people I know & love. However, I noticed a lot of reviewers on here were disappointed that this book was not a mystery or triller based around the author's brother's murder, so I wanted to provide my own insight into what you can expect if you choose to read this book:
This book is a week-long trip into a small southern town in 1996. The protagonist is an atypical housewife, Mary Byrd Thornton, and the story is also told from the perspectives of her wayward yardman and playboy paramour. It begins with a call from a detective reopening the long-cold case of the murder of Mary Byrd's younger brother when he was just a child. Rather than kicking off a whodunit- this call opens up the floodgates for a week of complex emotions surrounded by family love and loss, not just for Mary Byrd but for all the people in her life- each of whom face their own trials as the book continues. Rather than make this about the loss of one boy- this book is about the ties that bring us together and the forces that propel us all forward even when faced with unfathomable grief and loss....more
My father has always told me that Flags in the Dust (or Sartoris) is the best introduction to Faulkner, and this new reader agrees. (I have read The UMy father has always told me that Flags in the Dust (or Sartoris) is the best introduction to Faulkner, and this new reader agrees. (I have read The Unvanquished- another good intro he recommended- but it wasn't nearly this good). I grew up in Faulkner's hometown playing in my grandparent's yard across the street from his home. Faulkner is a local legend, and without having read anything by him, I grew up knowing the names and general personality traits of his recurring characters/ families of his fictional Yoknapatawpha County residents. As a giant figure of my childhood & local identity in addition to being a giant of literature, Faulkner intimidates the hell out of me, so I am just getting over it and picking him up. I'm so glad I did.
Flags in the Dust features characters from every walk of life in and around Jefferson, MS, WF's fictionalized version of my hometown, Oxford, MS. It's a long book that took a while for me to get through, but I really enjoyed it. Certain parts had me laughing audibly on the subway (usually something Miss Jenny said- she might be one of my new favorite characters ever).
Set during the end of WWI, the younger characters are returning from overseas and dealing with the changes wrought from the experience- a debonaire southern intellectual rationalizes away moral codes, a spitfire hellion pilot reels from the loss of his beloved younger brother, a young black house servant talks of equality and his right to not be a white family's servant after fighting side-by-side, and a poor white boy becomes a war hero and deals with his father's anger and disappointment in him for fighting with the Union side in this new war. The older men are still telling tall tales and romanticizing their roles & those of their fathers in the Civil War. They cling to the legends of their past without recognizing the changes that took place in 60 years to bring their sons & grandsons to this new conflict. Meanwhile, the women stay home and increase in internal strength as they watch their men come and go- make mistakes, learn lessons, and live for vain glory and violent ends.
This was Faulkner's 3rd novel, and he had a hell of a time getting it to print- it was eventually severely edited into one story & was published as Sartoris from 1929 until Flags in the Dust was recovered and published in 1973. It's difficult to find Sartoris now, and I don't know what the differences are, but I was surprised at how much this book reminded me of 100 Years of Solitude, published in 1967. I was always told that Garcia Marquez was greatly influenced by Faulkner, and I have to wonder if he'd read Sartoris at that point, and how similar it was to what I've just read. The multi-generational family dynamic of the Sartoris family and their interactions with the rest of the town seemed like a Southern version of the Buendia family in Macondo. There are vast differences in style & content, not to mention "magic realism" isn't present so much in Faulkner, at least not in comparison to 100 years. I would argue that there is an element of myth that is similar- a "mythical realism" so to speak. I think if you liked 100 Years of Solitude, you would definitely love this book. I highly recommend it, and I can't wait to read more Faulkner.
I'd sooner describe this book as "amazing" than say I "really liked it." Percy is an excellent writer. The book communicates a sense of despair and aI'd sooner describe this book as "amazing" than say I "really liked it." Percy is an excellent writer. The book communicates a sense of despair and a lot of the images and a general feeling of sadness linger whenever I think of the book. I had high expectations because I'd heard a lot about this book and was immediately captured by Percy's writing style. Now when I think of the book, just a few months after reading it, the images and the sadness still surface but leave me mostly unmoved. I sympathized with Binx, but I couldn't empathize... maybe because I just didn't like him. He reminds me of an earlier generation's version of Richard Ford's Frank Bascombe but without the sense of humor. Kate was more interesting, but she's not the Moviegoer....more
This book is pretty much a condensed and coherent version of his short story collection Airships. I'm not complaining. I would recommend Airships firsThis book is pretty much a condensed and coherent version of his short story collection Airships. I'm not complaining. I would recommend Airships first, but only because it shows a slightly wider range of characters. I really enjoyed Ray. Ray, though usually a fighter pilot turned doctor, is not just one person but a character that resurfaces in Vietnam and the Civil War. He and his closest friends depict the violent and more desperate sides of humanity in both war and peace; violence in peace is mostly in the form of sexual violence- not necessarily rape but possession and domination as well as emotional violence. I would say Ray is full of hedonistic joy if it weren't also full of irrational hatred. It reads like a collection of short stories. You won't become attached to the characters or walk away with a different approach to life- it's an entertaining and very short read....more
I pulled this off the shelf on a whim with no real knowledge of what to expect. Because I didn't go into it as a serious reader, I feel that I've missI pulled this off the shelf on a whim with no real knowledge of what to expect. Because I didn't go into it as a serious reader, I feel that I've missed layers and am almost tempted to pick it up again and start over, but I'm not sure I could handle it. The book sucked me into Laurel's emotions. I haven't empathized with a character to such an extent in quite some time, especially considering that Laurel is having to come to terms with a type of grief that I fortunately cannot begin to imagine- not just her father's death but the memory of her mother and husband combined with her father's betrayal of her mother's memory through Fay, Becky's antithesis. Any writer who can provide such depth of character and intense emotion in so few words is worth reading, and I'll be sure to read this book again....more
It's difficult to give one rating to a book of short stories, but I enjoyed some of these so much that they overpower the few that I couldn't get intoIt's difficult to give one rating to a book of short stories, but I enjoyed some of these so much that they overpower the few that I couldn't get into. Barry Hannah has lived down the street since I moved there at age 10, but after my mother stopped me from reading his books in middle school (smart woman), I didn't pick them up until recently. I'm very glad I did. My favorite stories were Water Liars, Love too Long, Return to Return, Our Secret Home, and Mother Rooney Unscrolls the Hurt. I didn't like most of the Civil War-set stories with the exception of "Behold the Husband in his Perfect Agony."
I would have liked to read this with a class or a book club because the stories are rich enough to feel layers that I couldn't open up on my own. Either way, most of them have a mystical quality that is utterly fascinating, usually in a grotesque way. I recommend them to anyone with a strong stomach who doesn't expect a happy ending (or an ending at all). ...more