Customer Review

1,828 of 1,980 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Several GREAT novellas in one very long book!, October 22, 2013
This review is from: The Goldfinch: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction) (Hardcover)
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.

The great thing about this book is that you can set it aside for a few days and pick it up again and not be "lost"--the writing and characters are that strong. The "plot" on the other hand seems to grow thinner and less important as you head down the last 200 plus pages as "big issues" are thoughtfully woven in.

I'm sure this will receive many 4 and 5 star ratings, but I'm giving it a very good solid 3 since, unfortunately, it seemed to run out of gas toward the end. But those first 600 pages -- great, great stuff!
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Tracked by 17 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 104 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 23, 2013 11:23:55 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Nov 7, 2013 11:59:32 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 23, 2013 11:35:25 AM PDT
Derek Jager says:
LOL--a friend is the publisher so I'll pass along your pet peeve and see if I get a response!

(And no, there is little Dutch in the book!)

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 31, 2013 3:57:57 PM PDT
Flynn says:
LOL indeed, though I'm a little creeped out.

What a totally bizarre complaint! I've just seen some similiar diatribes in Amazon reader reviews of the new Elizabeth George novel ("too many Italian phrases" -- oh, the horror). I am by no stretch multilingual (not even bilingual, unless my high school Spanish counts?...solo un poco, natch). As far as I can tell, anyone who is undone by short foreign phrases in a literary work is probably not very literate, nor very curious, and lacks eyes, ears, nose and tastebuds for the poetry of good prose.

I'm sure you were only being polite, and that you and your publisher friend will be having a good laugh about that peculiar "advice" over lunch. Truly, the funniest part is that it "royally pissed [her] off" -- and on the first page, no less -- where there are literally only three words in Dutch!

Is there some kind of weird new literary xenophobia? Cause I've been reading Amazon reviews since the beginning and I don't recall seeing this particular complaint until recently. What is going ON?

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 31, 2013 4:31:43 PM PDT
Derek Jager says:
My publisher friend passed it on to Donna's editor who thought it was funny--not laughing at the post, but he says he gets so many comments about so many books, good and bad, that you can never tell what will get a reader upset. Oddly, I haven't picked the book up since I left off at page 600 and something. I'll finish it off one of these days, but for me it was simply too long.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2013 8:07:06 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Nov 7, 2013 11:59:15 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2013 10:26:24 AM PDT
Flynn says:
Marion, you are kooky and I like that in a person -- I especially love that you buy so many books! But let's do some math here.

Even if you speed-read (which isn't really reading, btw) and managed to "read" 5 books per week, that brings you to approximately 260 books per year (average -- and I'm assuming that you are not counting children's books or flimsy romance novels). At that rate it would take nearly four years to read 1000 books (and this is assuming that you never attended school, worked, cleaned, ate, nor interacted with other humans -- which is highly unlikely).

So, Marion, if you've "read over a hundred thousand books" then you are around 400 years old.

William Gladstone is said to have read around 20,000 books (which some point to as the record for lifetime reading). And there's a woman in England who checked 25,000 books out her public library in her lifetime (though it's difficult to say whether she read them all).

I am sorry for insulting your preferences earlier. You certainly have every right to discard or ignore books that don't suit you. Complaints about foriegn phrases in literary works is my own (new) pet peeve. I am certainly glad to know that your motives are not xenophobic. In some of the reviews I've read of other books xenophobia is quite explicitly the motivation, and of course it's a shameful one.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2013 11:43:20 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Nov 7, 2013 11:58:41 AM PST]

Posted on Nov 4, 2013 10:13:51 AM PST
I thought this was a solid 5 star book. It is the best writing I've seen in years. Yes, it probably is too long, but who would dare edit this great a writer. The book covers many worlds--from the successful Park Avenue world to that of the failed Las Vegas hustler, and all of these are amazingly real. I can't imagine anyone being that familiar with all of them, including book publishing and drug dealing. It is an amazing story that winds and twists through various locales and characters. It is a challenge, but well worth it. Melody Kruger

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 6, 2013 1:33:29 PM PST
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Nov 6, 2013 10:59:24 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 6, 2013 11:06:44 PM PST
ross says:
The whole goldfinch sub-plot seemed very contrived to me, all the paranoia and concern from Theo, plus the bizarre circumstances in which he first took it. Why didn't he just mail it back to the museum. Tartt tends to over-write and over-describe, it's great writing but it gets a bit repetitive when the plot stalls and she seems unable to let the reader join the dots/fill in the colours, it's a style reminiscent of Flaubert, I loved the Vegas section, have got 200 pages to go. She is a wonderful writer, can't think of any contemporary novelist in her league, I'm prepared to accept some flaws for all the good bits, dialogue, character, atmosphere, and poetic imagery. Waht a sweeping novel, it's reach is astonishing.
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