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Hachette Book Group
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The Goldfinch: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction) Kindle Edition
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|Length: 760 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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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!
Theo Decker, whose adolescence and rise to maturity is the main subject of the novel, is an interesting combination of Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye and of course Pip in Great Expectations. His mother is killed in a bomb explosion at the Metropolitan Museum, and he suffers from an unrequited love for Pippa, a red haired girl who was also involved in the same incident. The book is well written and holds your attention, the final chapters set in Amsterdam just go on a bit too long. Ms. Tartt could have done with a stricter editor. Overall I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to actually seeing The Goldfinch, the eponymous Dutch Old Master painting which is the touchstone of Theo's life and currently and apparently quite coincidentally on loan to the Frick Museum in New York.
Then there's Theo, the main character. She transforms him from someone we share concerns with, someone we find interesting and intelligent, into a simpering vessel of self-loathing. The entire scenario of the book, the possession of a stolen painting and his efforts to maintain this as a secret, feels so flimsy for even the flaccid narrator. His journey into illicit sales of fine furnishings is also rife with logical holes. His mentor makes the stuff and then condemns him for selling it? He must repurchase it all? Hands are wrung and lives are in the balance?
But I do love the Boris. I did not like, however, her manipulation of the story (reader) with Boris' theft of the painting. She signals it at the time of the theft and then, within a story in which every other detail, down to dust motes and scratches on furniture is raised to abject fussiness, weirdly makes this something Theo (and the reader) does not discover until much, much later. Handled very clumsily.
That said I read the whole thing. It does contain a world. The world tumbles along as world's do - and this Tartt did well. But the story started dying, perhaps at the theft of the painting by Boris, and continued to wilt and die progressively. The end felt like a slow death, a grinding to a halt.