Book Thoughts: The Goldfinch

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“Caring too much for objects can destroy you. Only—if you care for a thing enough, it takes on a life of its own, doesn’t it? And isn’t the whole point of things—beautiful things—that they connect you to some larger beauty?”

Up and down like a roller coaster with this one. One minute I was laughing, the next I yawning. Still I’m not sure how I feel about it.

I went into The Goldfinch knowing very little. It wasn’t until I was about midway through the book that I checked out the synopsis. Which let me say is a bit misleading. So I’ll try to give you a more accurate one.No spoilers promise

One day Theo Decker and his art loving mother enter The Met Museum in New York. They admire a set of Dutch paintings by Carel Fabritius.

 

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So cute!

Suddenly a bomb goes off killing his mother and many other people. During the chaos of the explosion, Theo meets a strange old man who convinces him to do two things. These things will eventually have a huge affect on Theo’s life, both positive and negative. After his mother’s death, Theo avoids the system by going to live with the wealthy socialite family of his old friend Andy Barbour. They take him in graciously and warmly, but with the understanding that if his alcoholic father ever came back to reclaim him he would have to leave. Eventually he does come back and Theo heads off the Vegas with him. He never lets go of his grief for his mother, and the memory of what he did the day she died.

Donna Tartt is known for her beautiful prose, and I have to agree with that. It’s poetic without being overly flowery or purple.

“…as we rise from the organic and sink back ignominiously into the organic, it is a glory and a privilege to love what Death doesn’t touch.”

Most of her characters are real and well developed. Her story grabs you from the start and when you think, “Oh, I’ll just read a few pages before bed” turn into an hour gone by and you not knowing where it went. It’s apparent that she really did her research for this one. There is heavy art references and as well as antiques.
Theo our protagonist starts off very relatable. I enjoyed his narrative and his perspective on life and how he views other people.
“Often times I saw interesting-looking people on the street and thought about them restlessly for days, imagining their lives, making up stories about them on the subway or crossing town”

He is dealt a terrible card, and learns how to adapt and roll with the punches. There were times I found him unbearably annoying, and I found his choices questionable. Furthermore, these choices also endeared him to me. It showed how flawed and real he was. How many times do we make mistakes and then don’t know how to fix them?

His depiction of grief was real and raw.
“But unexpectedly, grief pounded over me in waves that left me grasping; and when the waves washed back, I found myself looking out over a brackish wreck which was illuminated in a light so lucid, so heartsick and empty, that I could hardly remember that the world had ever been anything but dead.”

Anyone who has lost someone will understand his feelings perfectly.
Ultimately his story is about loss and trying to find a way to fill it, and to belong.

The secondary characters especially Andy and Boris really made this book for me. They were a source of entertainment, but also carried the book forward especially in the early stages. Hobbie was the grandpa I always wanted to have. His rationality was the voice of reason Theo needed desperately to hear.

However, something that bothered me was the portrayal of women. They’re all weak sauce. They are either objects of desire, shrews, or mother figures. The only woman who showed any bit of personality was Theo’s mom, but then we all know what happened to her.

Another critique of the book is that it drags. I like directness and it has a lot to do with my short attention span. If a book is going to be this long (775 pages!) It needs to make sure it’s going to keep the reader entertained. Unfortunately, it failed to do that for me for about 30% of the book, and when a book is this big those 30% matter.

As I said this this was roller coaster for me. A bumpy one. One minute I’m highlighting passages and writing them down in my notes really thinking about what I just read, the next I’m yawning and checking how much of the book there is left. I can easily think of a few things that could have been cut. Perhaps this can be blamed on my short attentions span, but all of this really got in the way of me adoring this book. As it is I don’t have terribly negative feelings towards it, but as a result I kind of just like it. It wouldn’t be the first book I would recommend to someone out of my recent reads list.

Overall, not in any way bad. It’s very well written, it’s a very good story, but if you’re attention span is just as short as mine you might want to prepare yourself to spend at least two weeks with this one.

 

Also, congrats to Donna Tartt for her Pulitzer.

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