The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
2013 Hachette Audio
Reader: David Pittu
Finished on October 9, 2014
Composed with the skills of a master, The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America and a drama of enthralling force and acuity.
It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his longing for his mother, he clings to the one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the criminal underworld.
As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love—and his talisman, the painting, places him at the center of a narrowing, even more dangerous circle.
The Goldfinch is a novel of striking narrative energy and power. It combines unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and breathtaking suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher’s calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is a beautiful, stay-up-all-night-and-tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.
I’m not even going to try to discuss the literary merit (or lack thereof) of this novel, as there are numerous articles available on the Internet that debate both sides of this argument. I, however, am not a critic, nor am I a literary scholar. When I select book to read, I either trust an author’s past history with books I’ve previously read or I rely on word-of-mouth, whether from fellow bloggers, co-workers, friends or relatives. I look forward to each new book, hopeful that I will be both entertained and enlightened.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, The Goldfinch is THE most talked about novel of 2014. Weighing in at 771 pages, it was not up for debate as to whether I would read the print version or listen to the audio. I do most of my reading in bed, so the weight alone was enough to convince me to listen rather than read. This format is always a nice way to pass the time at work before the store opens, but, honestly, Theo’s internal monologue went on and on and on! The beginning of the novel is very compelling and I couldn’t wait to find an opportunity to listen to another chapter, but unfortunately the pacing is uneven and the book began to feel like a slog (albeit a nonetheless compelling train wreck of a slog) by the midpoint. Tartt is quite a storyteller, though, and I remained curious, anxious to see how it would all play out in the end for Theo. Plus, David Pittu is an excellent reader (with a great Russian accent), so I stuck with it and finished the novel in just under six weeks. It’s a good thing I didn’t choose to read the ebook edition, as I am pretty sure I wouldn’t have had the patience to see it to the very end. With that said, the story and characters are embedded in my memory, as is the case with most of the audiobooks I’ve experienced. Will they remain? That is yet to be seen.
Masterful? Perhaps to some. Immense? Without a doubt. Worthwhile? Debatable. Lyrical? No. (If you’re looking for a lyrical work of literature, once again I highly recommend All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.) Regrettable? I’m not sorry I read The Goldfinch (as a bookseller, it’s always good to be knowledgeable about the bestsellers, particularly during the holiday
How about you? Have you read this chunkster? Do I dare try The Secret History, which has been languishing on my shelves for years?