Play Book Tag discussion

The Goldfinch
This topic is about The Goldfinch
28 views
Archive: Other Books > The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt - 3 Stars

Comments Showing 1-19 of 19 (19 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Jason (last edited Sep 18, 2019 08:07AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jason Oliver | 2063 comments This book is hard to review. I liked it, but I am having trouble explaining why I liked it. Instead, with this book, its much easier to explain why I didn't like it. Its almost as though I enjoyed the book despite itself.

Theo Decker is 13 years old when his mother is killed and he steals a painting which set into motion events throughout the rest of Theo's life.

I lost my mother at a young age but unlike Theo, I had a loving and stable father to raise me as well as older siblings to help throughout my life. Still, the rest of my life was changed the moment my mother died, such as Theo's. I spend a lot of time thinking about how life would have been different for me had my mother not died and, how my life would be had I not had a loving and stable father, and its possible for it to go somewhat like Theo's.

The writing of The Goldfinch is masterful and beautiful. I let the audio read to me as I followed along in the book, and the audio was wonderful as well.

However,

There were not enough peaks in the story line and too many troughs. For much of the book, there seemed to be no direction to the story. Without the audio, I am pretty sure I would have given up on the story. Add in Theo and especially his friend Boris being easy to dislike...It made for some rough reading as well.

Then the cliche of the art underworld. The Russians everywhere. Secret meetings where Theo is immediately liked or disliked due to his knowledge, appreciation and charm and a trip to Amsterdam that is confusing.

And my biggest issue. A character would say, "I have something to tell you" then 17 pages (Hyperbole) of beating around the bush, telling why they have to tell or why its hard to tell but never telling them what needs to be told. This drove me insane, over and over.

And the ending of the book. Starting with the trip to Amsterdam, so about the last 200-300 pages, kill the attachment I had to the little bit of story that was there, especially the very end, a philosophical look back at all the events of the book, the rationalization that being good or bad is out of our control and being bad is necessary to create good. Not only is the ending unnecessary, but a load of self justification crap.

I still don't why I feel closely to this story though, why I feel like I liked and enjoyed it. Why I feel the need for 3 stars. But I did. Though the book has many flaws, it has just enough to make me like it.


message 2: by annapi (new)

annapi | 4849 comments I heard that the movie was flat compared to the book. With your review, I'm not inclined to sample either! That 17 pages of beating around the bush - I think I will pass...


Jason Oliver | 2063 comments annapi wrote: "I heard that the movie was flat compared to the book. With your review, I'm not inclined to sample either! That 17 pages of beating around the bush - I think I will pass..."

I must admit that 17 pages is a hyperbole, but the sentiment is the same. I am reading saying out loud, "Good God, just say it."


Jgrace | 2709 comments I absolutely agree with your review. The book was in desperate need of editing. The plot was unmoored, and while I did understand that it was a first person account of a boy who was totally adrift after his mother's death, someone needed to red pencil about 200 pages of it. I ended up giving it 4 stars, mostly because she wrote so beautifully about grief.


message 5: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3029 comments There was an article recently, then subsequent online talk, about this book being problematic... did you pick up on that or know why there is the criticism?

I had this on my long tbr list, but I am not sure I can handle multiple incidents of beating around the bush for 17 pages to get to the point! I think I will still keep it on the long list, but not in a hurry to get to it.


Jason Oliver | 2063 comments Meli wrote: "There was an article recently, then subsequent online talk, about this book being problematic... did you pick up on that or know why there is the criticism?

I had this on my long tbr list, but I ..."


No, I don't know and haven't seen the criticism you are speaking of. If I had to guess, I would say heavy drug and alcohol use by 15 year old kids. Drug use is very prevalent in the book.


message 7: by Meli (last edited Sep 18, 2019 09:32AM) (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3029 comments Jason wrote: "Meli wrote: "There was an article recently, then subsequent online talk, about this book being problematic... did you pick up on that or know why there is the criticism?

I had this on my long tbr..."


I got the impression it was racial ... and I was right.
Here is the article (if you are interested).

** WARNING FOR SPOILERS IN ARTICLE **
https://www.salon.com/2014/06/13/donn...

I'd be curious if you were struck by this at all ... or if it is really that problematic from your viewpoint as I find a lot of times these days there is much enjoyment from just being outraged by everything and finding problematic content where maybe there is none. But I haven't read the book so I can't speak to that.


message 8: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3029 comments My initial thought reading this article is that this may have been the most realistic portrayal of this kids life... and the people in it?

But now I HAVE to read it for myself.


Jason Oliver | 2063 comments Meli wrote: "Jason wrote: "Meli wrote: "There was an article recently, then subsequent online talk, about this book being problematic... did you pick up on that or know why there is the criticism?

I had this ..."


Thank-you for the article. No, I didn't pick up on this.

On the below passage, I do remember thinking, "thats not realistic"
"Cinzia the housekeeper, who “cried, and offered to stay and work for free” when the young protagonist Theo’s mother can’t afford her services anymore"

But when the cook stays on her night off to see Theo, I get that. She hadn't seen him in years. Tragedy had recently struck the family. This is not implausible to me.

Looking back at what the article said, I can only draw from personal experiences. I live in an area that is approximately 65-35 White to African American. I am in a bible congregation that is closer to 50-50 and may closest and best friend is African American and I have close Hispanic and Indian friends I see regularly, yet I have days and even strings of day, that the only minorities in my life are receptionists, cashiers, stock boys, or people I randomly pass.

Growing up was worse. I live in a town 75-25 White to African American. I went to a congregation that displayed similar statistics. I had no close African American friends and 1 close Venezuelan friend. My life was filled with white people and minorities were a background to my story or the most part. I don't have a problem with this in the story, it seems realistic to me. I don't have a problem and do not read too deep into this.

If in the future, based on Donna Tartt's actions and statements, we need to look back over her works and peer closer, then okay. Until then, I impute no wrong motive nor do I question parts of her creativity as the article does.


Nikki | 661 comments That Salon article is interesting - I loved the book & need to reflect a bit before forming an opinion - but it should come with a huge spoiler warning as it reveals something that I really enjoyed being surprised by in the book.


message 11: by Meli (last edited Sep 18, 2019 09:35AM) (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3029 comments Oh shoot, sorry about that! I think I know what part you are referring to and even not having read the book I wondered if it was a spoiler.

At the least, I edited my post and added warning before the article.

In regards to the controversy, I think overall we need to do better at representing people in less stereotypical ways, but still there are infinite possibilities to people's realities so I think you can have a story (in fiction or real life) where that is the reality.

Similar to the argument about "I am X and book doesn't represent me correctly," there many data points to draw from and no 2 will be alike.

This might be a Sunday discussion or Monday musing convo as I am starting to hijack this thread :)


message 12: by Joi (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joi (missjoious) | 3774 comments Great review, Jason. I also did the audio, and over all felt very similarly to you about this book as a whole.

Interesting- I went back and read my own review, and it said " I wavered between three and four stars for this one, and ended on three stars because of the ending". But it seems I've gone back and changed it to 4 stars at some point since then. Guess after I forgot some of the details, and cooled off the ending- I liked it more. Looking back, I may be partial to Donna Tart, and bumped it up because I have a bias towards her.

Call me a weird, but I remember really liking the writing in this- it really set up the scene, perhaps too much. It definitely went on and on, but I didn't mind that as much. My harps were more on the weird self-actualizing ending.

Also, re:Salon article. I feel bad that I didn't even notice anything while reading. Eek, sometimes injustice is so ingrained. Others of Tartt's have had definitely class/social commentary.


message 13: by NancyJ (last edited Sep 19, 2019 02:41AM) (new) - added it

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 4887 comments Parts of this book were vivid, moving, and memorable. Others were ... just nuts. It was like a mix of genres and styles. It was sometimes exhilarating and exhausting. There was one part that was like a fever dream. I read it years ago, but every once in a while I'll get bits of it stuck in my head. We get gold finches on the bird feeder on my porch, so I always think of it then. But I'll also get flashes of strange things, such as the descriptions of the houses in Las Vegas.

I had a hard cover large print edition, and it was the heaviest novel I've ever read. The other members of my bookclub thought it was hysterical.


message 14: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3029 comments NancyJ wrote: "Parts of this book were vivid, moving, and memorable. Others were ... just nuts. It was like a mix of genres and styles. It was sometimes exhilarating and exhausting. There was one part that was li..."

There is a woman in my IRL book club that needs large print and I feel for her because she has a limited selection at bookstores and libraries. Something I never really considered...

Imagine if you got Ducks, Newburyport in large print! Check out the size of that tome sometime for reference.


message 15: by NancyJ (new) - added it

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 4887 comments Meli wrote: "NancyJ wrote: "Parts of this book were vivid, moving, and memorable. Others were ... just nuts. It was like a mix of genres and styles. It was sometimes exhilarating and exhausting. There was one p..."

I'll remember that. If I decide to read Ducks, Newburyport, I'll get the kindle edition.

Kindle and audio are game changers for people like me. Fortunately I'm still able to read some regular books, but there is no way to know until I see it in person. I wish they would just put the font size on the copyright page.


message 16: by Holly R W (last edited Sep 19, 2019 03:37PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Holly R W | 1108 comments NancyJ wrote: "Parts of this book were vivid, moving, and memorable. Others were ... just nuts. It was like a mix of genres and styles. It was sometimes exhilarating and exhausting. There was one part that was li..."

I read the book in its hard edition too. Talk about being heavy and uncomfortable! Some healthy editing would have helped!


Susie | 4488 comments Meli wrote: "Jason wrote: "Meli wrote: "There was an article recently, then subsequent online talk, about this book being problematic... did you pick up on that or know why there is the criticism?

I had this ..."


I ended up adoring this book, and don't remember being struck by racial stereotyping, but perhaps that's because I'm a middle class white woman? I'm glad the article raised me attention to the criticisms.

Despite the horrendous reviews, I'm going to see the film next week. I'll report back!


Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 5527 comments I'm Hispanic and I was NOT struck by racial stereotyping.

In my humble opinion you can find offense almost anywhere if you look for it.


message 19: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3029 comments Book Concierge wrote: "I'm Hispanic and I was NOT struck by racial stereotyping.

In my humble opinion you can find offense almost anywhere if you look for it."


Thank you for that feedback.

I'll have to read to be sure, but I feel like this could be a reality for someone like this character - lack of people of color in his life outside of subservient roles. But I'll get to it someday.


back to top