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Donna Tartt was born in Greenwood, Mississippi and is a graduate of Bennington College. She is the author of the novels The Secret History and The Little Friend, which have been translated into thirty languages.
I won't go into the plot since everyone will know it. My concern whenever I'm given or purchase a very long book is, "Will it keep me engaged?" and is it worth the weeks it will take me to finish it?"
The answer with THE GOLDFINCH is "Yes!" and "Sorta!"
To me, the book is divided into sections or novellas--the explosion, living with the wealthy family, moving to Vegas, etc.
The brilliant opening section immediately kept me engaged--I think the explosion and Theo's experience and recovery is some of the best writing I've read in years.
The family he moves in with may remind you of THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS or Salinger's Glass family. They are funny, a bit tragic and sort of odd. The father especially--something about his behavior seemed a bit "off" as did his wild dialogue; it didn't seem at all "real" in a novel that's very grounded in reality. (It's revealed later why he behaves this way.)
The next--and for me, strongest novella--takes place in Las Vegas where we "live" with Theo's father and girlfriend. The writing is vivid, the characters and plot really move along and it's all terrific.
And then, for me, THE GOLDFINCH seems to stall a bit and slightly loses its way. This painting that Theo carries with him seems to be forgotten about and then every 100 pages or so is mentioned again (not that we care.)
There's a novella about dealing in art (collection and deception) and our hero takes a downward turn, but I found myself losing interest and by page 600 was growing impatient for it to end...or for the plot to kick in again as it did in the first few sections.Read more ›
I passed the Metropolitan Museum of Art the other day and was struck with a powerful and initially inexplicable melancholy. I had been affected by the experience of reading The Goldfinch, in the opening chapters of which a great tragedy happens there. The book is compelling and moving. Tartt is a master of foreshadowing, letting us know just enough of what is to come that we feel helpless to put down the book. I found myself staying up late for several nights, turning page after page to connect the dots. This book is every bit the equal of The Secret History in this regard. And it exceeds that earlier book in its great emotional depth. The opening section, in New York City, is terribly sad and in the hands of a lesser author this material would be difficult to get past. However, Tartt has signaled us well enough about the future of our protagonist, Theodore Dekker, that we stick with him. And from the second section of the book, while we have no shortage of continuing misery, it is tempered by hope or humor.
This is not to say that the book is necessarily realistic; it is structurally a Bildungsroman, and it constantly evokes earlier books rather than real life. In the opening section, when Theo is still living in New York City, I particularly detected The Catcher in the Rye. When he moves in with the family of a wealthy school friend, his hope of being adopted by them evokes elements of ...Read more ›
Let me start by saying Secret History is one of my favorite books. Having heard of this as a literary triumph better than History, I was really looking forward to reading it.
While a certain amount of hype has been bought and paid for, the rapturous reviews of this book leave me wondering how intellectually bankrupt this country must be to find this work brilliant. It is brilliant only if you think Gone Girl was brilliant. Which is to say it is uneven, speech-y instead of profound, and badly in need of one of the editors of yore.
What I did like: the plot is creative, the work is ambitious, and the first 1/3 is engrossing and addictive.
What I didn't like: there are plot twists that are beyond absurd, there is far too much self-congratulatory philosophizing stuck in at the end in incredibly forced exposition. The end reads like student work. The characters are unlike able, and there are pages, pages and pages of drug addiction descriptions that begin to read like pornography. Characters are thinly drawn, and plot lines are left more unresolved than resolved (not for ambiguity's sake, because it seems she just forgot about them).
The brilliance of the Secret History was that Tartt was writing from her own world. Every detail, no matter how unlikely, rang true. History is engrossing at every turn. Goldfinch is so off from reality that it at points becomes unreadable and even laughable. Her notions of adoption, investigation, terrorism, male mindset, and the mental and intellectual capabilities of children, are naively imagined and poorly researched, as are all of the relationships between characters. Goldfinch reads as intellectual writerly masturbation.Read more ›