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The Goldfinch
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1001 book reviews > The Goldfinch-Donna Tartt

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Amanda Dawn | 895 comments I couldn't find this book in the index list or when searching previous discussions: so I guess I'm making it now! (let me know if I goofed on this, so I can move this to the right place :)):

This is one of the new 2018 editions to the list, and I feel like it was a justified addition. I previously loved "The Secret History", and I enjoyed this Tartt novel for many of the same reasons: the allusions to art and philosophy, the intrigue of crime, the amoral and grandiose characters, the combination of ennui and unfulfilled glorious purpose. I gave it 5 stars.

I can see how these elements may be grating to some people, but I enjoy them immensely. I think it may be because these books are essentially exactly what I would have wanted to read as a pretentious teenager, and I'm allowing myself to indulge in that.

"The Goldfinch", follows Theo Decker from childhood to young-adulthood after his mother dies in a terrorist attack at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and he escapes with the titular painting by Carel Fabritius. Theo and the painting change hands over the following years, with this event profoundly affecting the course of his life. It explores themes of moral responsibility, grief, survival, legacy, and the role art plays in the course of history and memory.

Considering the history of Carel Fabritius and his work, I like how the Goldfinch is used as a metaphor for unlikely survival and a testament to legacy. I was also incredibly partial to the character of Boris: the amoral, drug-addled Russian/Kiwi ex-pat, who has an ambiguous but all-encompassing relationship with Theo.

There is also a movie based on the book coming out this September- so I'm quite excited for that!


Kristel (kristelh) | 3820 comments Mod
Read 2016
I've had this on my tbr for awhile but because of the length, I kept putting it off, but with the tag 2013 and also a category of book about art on a bingo card, this was the perfect opportunity to get this one read. I also was able to do the audio as Overdrive had it available. I liked it, it is a good story in part about a boy who loses his mother in a terrorist attack at the art gallery where he manages to escape (with a painting). He seems like a really nice boy but from that point on, he loses all semblance of being a nice boy. From there he goes to Las Vegas and lives with his father who also dies. So back to NYC at age 15. The whole story revolves around a painting of a goldfinch that is shackled. There really is such a painting. But is it more a story of loss and trauma as this young man loses his mother and then his father. Or is it a story of son like father? I really rate this book 3.5 stars though GR doesn't give us that ability. It is not as good a story as the author's The Secret History but maybe if I hadn't read that first, i would not have expected too much from this book. The writing is still good, the story is okay, what really drags is the ending which is a lot of "being in the brain" of the Decker as he ponders his life.


Diane Zwang | 1189 comments Mod
Read in 2015
4/5 stars

The story starts out with a bang, literally. I was captivated by this story right away and given its length 771 pages I was glad for that. As we learn from the book jacket, Theo Decker a thirteen-year-old boy, survives an accident that kills his mother. This story is his life and what happens after the accident and what a story it is. I read this book pretty quickly because it was such an engaging story but there were times when I thought it was too long. There are quite a few characters that come into the story and I particularly liked Boris and Hobie. Am I inspired to see The Goldfinch? Yes, when I make to the Netherlands. I am also inspired the read the other novels by this author.


Diane | 1918 comments Rating: 4 stars

I moved this one up on the list so I could watch the movie. By the time I finished the book, I saw the movie ratings and decided to wait until it came out in video. I also was wanting to read it since my family has visited Nevada, New York, and the Netherlands this year. I also loved The Secret History by this author.

The book immediately drew me in and I loved the first half of the book. The first half was definitely 5-star territory. I found the second half to be more in the 3-star territory, however. I felt that the author introduced some unnecessary characters and took too many deviations from the overall plot. The story could have been told in far fewer pages, in my opinion. I didn't find the lead character particularly likable, especially as an adult. This aspect, however, did not detract from the book for me.

Although I did like the book a lot, for the most part, I don't feel it merited its place on the list or its receipt of the Pulitzer Prize. I am probably in the minority in this.


message 5: by Pip (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pip | 1304 comments It isn't often that you read a best seller and come away from reading it as satisfied as I did finishing this tome. It is a book with a big plot that encompasses tragic youth, drug abuse, appreciating beauty, violence, and several settings, each of which has the protagonist at different stages of his life and his world view and language cleverly alters as the book progresses.


Tatjana JP | 273 comments Theo, the main character survives a terrorist attack in the Museum, but loses his mother. His actions and thoughts of his childhood and young adult life become very much affected by these tragic events.
The plot is at some points very engaging. Still, I was losing interest at other points – this is a very long book. Nevertheless, the ending was a kind of disappointment for me.
Obviously, the bird is symbolic to the story. I consider it to be a symbol of freedom, which, in this particular case of the Goldfinch painting, with a little string around bird’s leg was not the case. The painting, and the bird remind me of solitude and isolation, not of freedom at all.
After stating to read the book I enjoyed very much looking at the (illustrations of) Goldfinch painting. I learnt something of its history. The painting was to enforce artistic twist of this story. The story itself is not the one concerning art, but rather something else, including: terrorism, growing up, coping with personal traumatic experiences etc. But I guess that the story would be weaker if Theo brought home some other object – for example sword, or cup or even painting with another theme. The Goldfinch is a painting with its own history which was incorporated within this of Tartt, and it made it more appealing and mysterious. I think that it brought out the themes of isolation and inaccessibility, loneliness the most. That part I appreciated the most.
My overall rating: 3 stars.


message 7: by Patrick (last edited Mar 02, 2021 02:43PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Patrick Robitaille | 894 comments ****

Theo, 13, survives a terrorist attack where The Met (?) is bombed and partly destroyed. While escaping from the debris, he snatches a small rare Dutch painting after being guided to it by a man he had seen a few moments before the explosion. This act alone will trigger a chain of events over a 15-year period which will profoundly affect his life. At 864 pages, this is a huge novel and, while the plot and the characters are well developed, at times there is a feeling that things are dragging a bit too much. Nevertheless, the last 250 pages provide all the action that the first 600 pages have taken some time to build. The symbolism of the painting conveys most of the themes that are present in this novel about art, beauty, love and life. It was not a very rapid page-turner, but it was still a very engaging read if you have patience and take the time to let its contents sink in. Just like when you examine a painting to absorb its beauty and its meanings.


Leni Iversen (leniverse) | 411 comments Considering the length of the book - 864 pages - and the Pulitzer prize, I expected this book to be much less accessible and a much slower read. But while it wasn't exactly action packed (except towards the end), and while it contained lyrical descriptions and philosophical musings, and some heavy themes, it was actually quite the page turner. I would read entire 90 page sections in one go. I enjoyed the characters, especially the irrepressible Boris, but frequently found myself a bit annoyed with the the main character, Theo. I developed a bit of an interest in antiques, and a resolve to pay attention to the lighting in paintings. I felt uncomfortable but thoroughly hooked throughout the story, and found the ending quite satisfying.

4 stars. Probably belongs on the list. I would certainly rank it before several other list books I have read.


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