Caroline Barron_Author's Reviews > The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
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it was amazing

I should begin with the disclaimer that I have owned 'The Secret History' at least twelve times, and still haven't a copy on my bookshelf. Throughout the 90s and 00s, every half-drunk-after-dinner-party-peruser of my bookshelf got a copy pressed up against them; a thumping symbol of my 1990s university years.

I didn't feel the same about 'The Little Friend'. Oh, but 'The Goldfinch'. Suddenly, I have become shudderingly nervous about writing a review. In fact I’ve had to leave it a few days, simmering away in my heart and my throat to see if I feel the same way: heartsick and helpless and lost without it by my bed. And - oh sadly - I do.

Through first person narrator, Theo Decker, Tartt examines Life’s Big Questions: can goodness come out of evil? Are people all good or all evil? What do you do if you love the wrong person? And how and why can art speak to you, “a secret whisper from an alleyway. Psst you. Hey kid. Yes You”.

Tartt is quite simply a bloody good writer. Her beautiful language, her understanding of describing the minutiae to represent broader ideas, her courageous description of depression which wells up off the page like a spout of crimson from a slashed wrist (see quotes below). Her characters. Oh, her characters. Boris, I miss you. Meet you for a drink Thursday? Yeah yeah, so she’s borrowed a bit from Dickens (Hobie, the antique shop) but doesn’t everyone?

Part of me wanted to give four stars because the delving into the art underworld of the last few hundred pages seemed an unnecessary tangent. But the slightly lecturing, ephiphanic monologue of the last sub-chapter made it all worthwhile. Of course there will be some who groan and slam the book down, protesting such literary tricks, but the words - the words! – are courageous and original enough not to be passed over as some measly literary sleight of hand. I can see teenagers and twenty-somethings the world over – the new generation of 1990s ‘Celestine Prophecy’ kids - lapping it up; trawling each word for hidden meaning; copying passages into diaries; being coaxed “straight toward the bonfire” (761); whispering “you simply must!” as they press the book into the hands of half-drunk-dinner-guests. Sigh.

Gushing over-exuberance officially over. Favorite quotes:

“Though it had pervaded every aspect of the evening like a simmering toxin, Andy’s death was still too huge to grasp – though the strange thing too was how inevitable it seemed in hindsight, how weirdly predictable, almost as if he’d suffered from some fatal inborn defect. Even as a six year old – dreamy, stumbling, asthmatic, hopeless – the slur of misfortune and early demise had been perfectly visible about his rickety little person, marking him off like a cosmic kick me sign pinned to his back” (470).

“But in a strong light there was no good spin you could put on it. It was rotten top to bottom. Putting your time in at the office; dutifully spawning your two point five; smiling politely at your retirement party; then chewing on your bedsheet and choking on your canned peaches at the nursing home. It was better never to have been born – never to have wanted anything, never to have hoped for anything…” (477).”

“…I’ve come to believe there’s no truth beyond illusion. Because, between ‘reality’ on the one hand, and the point where the mind strikes reality, there’s a middle zone, a rainbow edge where beauty comes into being, where two very different surfaces mingle and blur to provide what life does not: and this is the space where all art exists, and all magic” (770).

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Reading Progress

Started Reading
December 20, 2013 – Finished Reading
December 22, 2013 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-3 of 3 (3 new)

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message 1: by Kim (new)

Kim Great review, Caroline!


Caroline Barron_Author Thanks Kim. I'm seriously grieving the end of this one! Merry Xmas to you and your family xx


message 3: by Kim (new)

Kim Thank you, Caroline, and a very Happy Christmas to you and yours.


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