Malia's Reviews > The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
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it was ok
bookshelves: literary-fiction
Read 2 times. Last read August 26, 2014 to September 3, 2014.

Such a long book seems deserving of a long review. It was well written, a solid story, but for me, it just fell quite flat. I sympathized with Theo, but I felt no connection to him, and that after spending hundreds of pages together. Tartt can obviously write, but I wonder whether she isn't a closeted short-story writer, rather than a novelist, because that's kind of how 'The Goldfinch' felt, like many vignettes featuring the same characters vaguely strung together. It wasn't that I didn't like it, it was a fine book, but after the tremendous amount of positive press and attention it has received, I was very wary to even read it, almost knowing I would be disappointed, and that has, unfortunately, been the case.
The idea of the story being tied together by one small painting really intrigued me, as I'm very interested in art and art history (though actually there wasn't that much of it in the book). I also found the people Theo met (Hobie, Pippa, Boris) to be the real highlights of this book, rather than Theo himself, who, even as an adult, is entirely uncharismatic. We are told relatively late that he and Pippa still suffer from PTSD, although it is obvious, really, that Theo was quite badly damaged by his traumas. I don't know whether Tartt intended for Theo to be so distant to show his trouble in connecting to the world, or whether it is just the way I interpreted his character. In either case, it prevented me from being as drawn in as I was, for example, with Boris' story. For the most part, I felt everything was told with a strange level of detachment wildly at odds with the deeply personal themes.
Tartt's style reminds me a little of Joyce Carol Oates in that there is a lot of descriptive, almost stream-of-consciousness style language. I generally find this method a little annoying and sometimes even inaccessible, so it obviously is not a plus in my eyes in relation to THE GOLDFINCH.
All in all, I'm not upset that I read it (although it really felt long, where others of similar length have not). I was curious what all the fuss was about, and now at least I know for myself. In terms of elegance of prose, Tartt is very accomplished and if that is the criteria, she certainly is deserving of the Pulitzer. The story was not that special, but it wasn't awful either, just depressing. In the end of the day, I think I just got tired of 700+ pages of almost unrelenting melancholy.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading (ebook Edition)
September 5, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read (ebook Edition)
September 5, 2013 – Shelved (ebook Edition)
August 26, 2014 – Started Reading
August 26, 2014 – Shelved
September 3, 2014 – Finished Reading
June 13, 2017 – Shelved as: literary-fiction
June 14, 2017 – Shelved as: literary-fiction (ebook Edition)

Comments Showing 1-11 of 11 (11 new)

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Bill Kupersmith Isn't it strange how we're all so different? I had few problems with Theo but utterly detested Boris.


Malia Bill wrote: "Isn't it strange how we're all so different? I had few problems with Theo but utterly detested Boris."

In hindsight, Boris was pretty awful, too;-) I think I was just overall very disappointed, and Theo fell so flat for me. Oh well, plenty of great books this year. have you read Tana French's new book yet? I loved it!


Bill Kupersmith My review of The Secret Place is up on both my Read & my Secret-History shelves & I'd love comments.


Margitte Your last paragraph says it all, for me. I also thought the book was way too long. It was amazing that there was no emotional investment in the book by either the reader or the author. At least that is how I experienced it. Great review, Malia.


Malia Margitte wrote: "Your last paragraph says it all, for me. I also thought the book was way too long. It was amazing that there was no emotional investment in the book by either the reader or the author. At least tha..."

Thanks, Margitte! I'm glad you had a similar experience(well, not glad you didn't like it, but you know what I mean), because I thought maybe I had missed something somehow the way people were raving about it;-) It's so often like this thought with books that are lauded as just so amazing, I often feel disappointed if they don't live up.


Bill Kupersmith Have you noticed the recent article about drug dealers using stolen L S Lowry art for collateral? Tartt got it right. But I totally agree that The Goldfinch is too long if you're reading it for the story. But my prediction proved true - the book continues to haunt me, particularly how beauty & art matter in our lives, the difference between the fake & the authentic, & along with Scherm & Fyfield, Tartt has affected how I live, @ least a little bit. Also enjoying Pessl more too because Tartt's style sharpened my ear. But I still detest Boris!


Malia Bill wrote: "Have you noticed the recent article about drug dealers using stolen L S Lowry art for collateral? Tartt got it right. But I totally agree that The Goldfinch is too long if you're reading it for the..."

It's interesting that you got such a different take-away from this book than I did. I am a big fan of art related fiction, and volunteer at the art museum where I live, and yet for me this book has been surprisingly forgettable. I actually think if it had been about 400 pages, I would have liked it much better, because it wouldn't have made the characters so tedious to me.


Bill Kupersmith Love Tartt cut all parts where Boris appear but him necessary to plot.


message 9: by Lilo (new) - added it

Lilo Thanks for the warning! A book would have to be "out of this world" that I would want to read 700 pages. I'll take it off my TBR list.


Malia Lilo wrote: "Thanks for the warning! A book would have to be "out of this world" that I would want to read 700 pages. I'll take it off my TBR list."

A lot of people loved it, maybe you would, too, but for me, it just fell far below my expectations, unfortunately:-/


message 11: by Lilo (new) - added it

Lilo Malia wrote: "Lilo wrote: "Thanks for the warning! A book would have to be "out of this world" that I would want to read 700 pages. I'll take it off my TBR list."

A lot of people loved it, maybe you would, too,..."


I don't think I would love it. I have only little patience for very long books.


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