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November 22, 2014

The Goldfinch


The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Fiction
2013 Hachette Audio
Reader: David Pittu
Finished on October 9, 2014
Rating:3.5/5 (Good)




Publisher’s Blurb:

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.

Final Thoughts:

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 madness season), but I doubt it’s one about which I’ll gush to a tentative customer.

How about you? Have you read this chunkster? Do I dare try The Secret History, which has been languishing on my shelves for years?

14 comments:

  1. I read this with my book club and we all enjoyed it but no one gushed over it. I don't mind a long book but I thought it could have told the story better had it been edited.

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    1. I certainly don't mind long books either, but this one was so bleak from the first page! Definitely could've used some editing.

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  2. I've wondered if this is a case of a book being too overhyped. I haven't read it yet but the love for this one is quite immense! But whatever you do, do NOT *listen* to The Secret History. Tartt narrates herself and it ruined the book for me (I so wish that the publishers would spend the money to reproduce this one).

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    1. I didn't have super high expectations for this book since my mom didn't care much for it (and we usually like the same sort of books). I decided to listen to the audio just so I would know what it was about (and to have something to listen to) and I did get hooked from the opening chapters, but then it seemed to go on and on and on. One bad thing after another. Poor Theo! You might like the book, Trish. Give it a try. The narrator is very, very good. I can still envision so many of the scenes and I can hear the voices as if they were in the room with me.

      Thanks for the warning about The Secret History audio book. I have the print copy, so I guess I'll give it a try one of these days.

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  3. I was disappointed in this book. That came as a surprise to me, because I have read and reread The Secret History many times. It is one of my favorite novels ever, although I say that reluctantly because when I recommend it to some of my friends they day, "Really?" It is a novel either one loves or despises, I think.

    This one I liked very much, although I can see how listening to it would get very tedious. The part that disturbed me, though, is that in the end there is No Hope Whatsoever. Personally, I cannot live with such a bleak outlook on life.

    A side note; if you have a chance, listen to some of the music by Arvo Partt. He was a new to me composer mentioned several times in this book, and I really like his music. Although it's for contemplating, not partying.

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    1. I know how much you love The Secret History and for that reason I will give it a try one of these days.

      I did like this book, but it just seemed like nothing ever went Theo's way and he was always making such bad decisions. And it did get tiresome after the second half. Yep. No Hope Whatsoever. And I felt so bad for Hobie in the end. He really wanted to be understanding, but you could tell he was hurt by Theo's actions. Sigh.

      Thanks so much for reminding me of Arvo Partt. I remember his name from the book and wound up listening to some of his music this morning. Definitely my kind of music. I love Pablo Casals, as well. Are you familiar with his music?

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    2. No, I don't know of Pablo Casals. Will look him up on Spotify, my favorite new station. Don't you get tired of recommending music to me? :) I think I'm half...what's the equivalent of illiterate, but pertaining to music instead of books? That's what I am when it comes to music and film.

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    3. No, I never get tired or recommending music (or books) to you, dear friend. I discovered Pablo Casals many years ago after seeing a movie which featured his music for part of the soundtrack. Might have been a WWII movie, but I honestly don't remember anymore.

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  4. The Secret History was a favorite and this one is on my kindle, but seem to be avoiding it. Maybe it would be less tedious as a read/listen combination. I'll get to it eventually, and have tempered my expectations.

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    1. So many bloggers have mentioned their love for The Secret History. I will certainly give it a try one of these days. Probably not until next year, at this point. And I'll read it rather than listen, now that I've heard Trish's opinion of the audiobook. :)

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  5. I wouldn't call this lyrical, but even so it was my favorite book of 2013. sorry you did not like it more. Les.

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Diane. Wish I had loved it, but it certainly wasn't a waste of time. :)

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  6. I read The Secret History when it was first published, and didn't like any of the characters. The friend who recommended it, loved it than and still considers it one of her all time favorites. Unfortunately, that was all the Tart I ever wanted to read, and I gladly past The Goldfinch by. Probably my loss for holding a grudge. :0

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    1. Hmmm, I wonder if I'll ever give The Secret History a try... so many other books I'd rather read.

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