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on July 29, 2017
Since I've titled this review, I loved It. I Hated It. I'll begin with what I loved.

The characters:

Hobie sprang off the page full-fleshed. I wanted him in my life with all of his fastidious charm, his love and understanding of the treasures he patiently restored, his welcoming warmth.

Then there was Boris. The wild card of a boy. A charming danger of a man. He was self-destructive, loving without restraint. A friend with betrayal in his mind and regret in his heart that grew so large he almost died trying to remedy it. Yet leaving the story, you knew that cycle of betrayal and restitution would never end until Boris ended. The anomie of Boris, his “desire without limit” would never be satiated; it would only intensify.

The prose:

Incisive and shattering. Tartt has the ability to surgically remove your heart and replace it fully engorged with fresh blood and clarity of insight about things you know, but have never had the words to express.

One tantalizing theme:

The sharing of beauty and ideas across time. Like the painting of the Goldfinch tantalized and affected the lives in her story, I’m sure Ms. Tartt’s novel will tantalize and affect the lives of future readers long after today’s readers are dust.

What I hated:

The prose: Yes. The author drove me insane with the redundant pounding of ideas--again and again--until three pages in I was screaming, "You've made your point. I get it! Where did the story go?"

The end: It was a summation of philosophy. I was left never to know what happened to any of the characters I’d come to know and relate to or even dislike. What I could be certain of was they continued their lives into “age and loss” with “no way out but death.”
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on February 20, 2014
This site certainly doesn't need another review to add to the over 7,000 already here. I won't add much to the discourse, but I'm doing this for my own satisfaction and to write down my thoughts about this book that can be both awesome and awful.

Donna Tartt is at times a brilliant writer and a masterful wordsmith. But she reminds me of a Grammy-winning jazz trombonist that I saw at a club once. He was an amazing technician and could coax more notes and different sounds out of the trombone than anyone I had ever heard. And while I could certainly appreciate his technical abilities and marvel at the otherwordly sounds he could create with the instrument, in the end the performance was not satisfying. I was looking for some semblance of a melody and artistry at least somewhat pleasant to the ear, but what I got was a cacophanous display of technical ability.

Yes, you can have too much of a good thing. And Donna Tartt proves it with The Goldfinch. No matter how skillfully she writes about Theo's drug-fueled escapades in Las Vegas, we are so tired of hearing about them after a while. And regardless of how well she conveys all of the things going through his mind while holed up in a hotel in Amsterdam, we just don't care at some point.

I understand the tendency of a good writer to do more of what she does well. What I don't understand is the writer's conceit in not recognizing and overcoming that tendency. While I see this as a serious fault in a writer, I find it unforgivable in an editor. Both of them are guilty of taking a 500 page great book and turning it into an 800 page good book.
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on December 8, 2017
I purchased both the digital and audio version of The Goldfinch. I read when it was not possible to listen, but very much enjoyed the audio version as well. The novel takes the reader through a complex and troubled life of a young man as he suffers extreme loss and self destruction. The story moves the reader through the highs and lows of friendship, life, love, and self discovery. I cried and audibly gasped as the life of Theo unfolds. My heart aches for him as he tries, desperately, to find his purpose and his truth. Every minute spent raging this novel was well worth it. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Theo unfolds into a difficult and complicated story which, although fictional, many of us may relate to: Feelings of loneliness, unrequited love, struggling to do the right thing, desperate to make amends, and finding himself in situations where there seems to be no way out but through. As Theo grows there are multiple instances of one step forward, two steps back, which the reader feels and yearns to help him overcome. Boris, Theo's childhood friend, helps him combat the void during his difficult childhood through humorous and equally destructive ways. The audio book, performed by David Pittu, delivers a brilliant interpretation of the languages, situations, and melancholy Theo experiences. I highly recommend the audio as well as the digital version.
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on November 11, 2017
Now I understand why they call this novel "Dickensian" - it is very much like a modern day Dickens tale. Very wordy and too long, a lot of overly descriptive passages that are often unnecessary, yet it is a masterpiece. It's a completely engrossing tale with incredible characters that are intelligent, vulnerable, flawed and foolish, outright aggravating at times, but feel so deeply that you can't help but be pulled along. I don't think I could read this more than once, but it was very satisfying along the way.
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on January 18, 2018
A coming if age story is a blurb that makes me say ‘next!’ But ‘a reckoning with your own ineptitude’ would intrigue me. This story manages to express all the teenage uncertainty, isolation, inability to express emotions, the idealized, and compromised loves that you feel so deeply but can’t articulate, and the reckless tangents that you pursue from boredom or a desire for companionship. At times, teenage Theodore seems far more adult than his age would suggest, and there’s other times he is so hopelessly naïve and lost that your emotions swing from compassion to frustration.
I can’t help feeling that this book is almost a companion piece to the Catcher in the Rye. The two novels obviously have some common themes, but it’s more the tone than the construction that reminds me of Salinger, though this book would have been greatly improved if the writer had followed Salinger’s lead in brevity. There are portions of the novel where the writer is so in love with the language (and, god she can write!) that she benumbs the point and loses the thread of the plot. But that is forgivable from writer such obvious talent...though I did find myself skimming the endless detail of crowd scenes and the tiresomely repetitive though beautiful inner workings of Theo's thought processes about the goldfinch, his life, his love, etc. The writer paints characters with such swift deft strokes of a painter working in the fast drying plaster of a fresco that the sudden turn to intense stippling when we dive beneath the surface of the main character becomes plodding. I know the framework of the story hangs on the painting of the goldfinch but I found myself almost annoyed when the goldfinch was re-inserted in the story. The characters are so well done so intriguing that even the superficial characters like the magician-cabby Appear full-blown on the page. I would have enjoyed more of that when it came to Theo. Sometimes ambiguity is better than a dissertation.
The end of the book takes on the one of a thriller, and what a thriller it would have been without the self-pitying Theo. the denouement was a real chore to get through, the book was over why not let it be over?
All in all I enjoyed this book but would have enjoyed it more if the author had spent a little more time winnowing out some of the repetitive descriptions and similes. I liken it to walking through the Louvre. try to cram it all into a day and you end up with an eyerolling 'woo-hoo , another masterpiece.'
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on November 5, 2017
This book held me spellbound from beginning to end. I didn't want to finish it but I couldn't wait to finish it to know the ending! The light for me in this dark story was Boris...his character was broken and a little scary yet he was such a strong character and had a loyalty and love for Theo the best he could given his circumstances. Even though Theo was truly the main character, Boris and Hobie were my favorites and the most dimensional for me. This is the only Donna Tartt book I have read but it was exceptional, the feelings it could evoke through the things that happened, how Theo waited for his Mom to come back to the apartment, the happiness when Boris was on the floor with Popper and he was so happy Popper remembered who he was...I felt like I was there with the characters and that's quite an accomplishment. Loved this book.
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on February 28, 2016
This is a five star book all the way. It is long, and often challenging, with foreign languages quoted, and a depressed main character, who is not always easy to care about. Unlike some reviewers, I liked the inclusion of the foreign phrases. We North Americans have too long been ignorant of, and often intolerant of the richness other languages have contributed to American English. It is arrogant to be so insular in a world filled with fascinating and varied cultures and languages. Besides, it isn't as if Tartt threw the foreign words in as an affectation. They are relevant to the characters who speak them. As to the length of the book, I will happily read this book again someday, if only to re-experience Tartt's fine prose, and gift for description of place and characters, not to mention the main character of the book (in my opinion), the painting of the Goldfinch. Her development of Theo's psychology is insightful. He is severely damaged as a child, so that it takes years, and extreme experiences to jolt him into a semblance of true self awareness. His experiences are unusual--unbelievable some reviewers claim. Well, isn't that one of the main qualities that keeps one reading any book of fiction. Even Chekhov, who often wrote about characters suffering from a sort of common ennui, painted them in a heightened manner--emotionally dramatic in the extreme. I am as happy about reading this book, as I was years ago, reading Les Miserables, David Copperfield, Bleak House, and Great Expectations, not to forget the many imposing works of Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky, all books which filled my youthful heart with excitement about how words strung together just so, can convey so much beauty and pathos, enriching ones life. I realize many disagree with me, but, bottom line, I simply loved the premise, and the prose of The Goldfinch, and am thrilled to have read it. That said, if you like your novels simple, and straight forward, don't bother with this book. It is dense, and takes, at times, much effort to dig into. I kept digging, and found gold.
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on September 21, 2016
In between the longeurs of the descriptive passages and accounts of situations that could and should have been cut in the editorial process are brilliantly evocative accounts of feelings, events, individuals, and developments that almost take the reader’s breath away. Interspersed with all these are passages where, instead of describing scenes or events the author simply lists a series of adverbs or adjectives, seeming to think that by doing so she is creating atmosphere. To me this simply reflects laziness, or weariness with the need to build a sentence rather than just giving a list of words. There are sections that display great knowledge of such diverse subjects as art, drugs, and antiques, and I found these both interesting and illuminating, though I’m not sure if that was the purpose of the book.

To sum up, this book has descriptive passages of luminous brilliance and insight and a narrative thread that pulls the reader onwards, alongside parts that are simply too long and almost unbearably tedious. Where was the editor in all this?
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on September 15, 2014
I slogged through the nearly 800 pages of this overwritten and pretentious account of a single character's younger life, hoping that at some point the plot would take an upward trajectory and the character would actually develop. Didn't happen. Apart from product placement and name-dropping, there is little here to justify such a large commitment of time and effort. Over-detailed, repetitive, redundant, and obvious, the prose moves with glacial speed. The main character, Theo, is interesting only up to a point, but he hits a certain level of ennui and self-recrimination early and never quite gets beyond that. His simpering romance with a fantasy that he has created in his mind vies with a dark secret that, as it turns out, isn't a secret at all, but it's a long way to go to figure that out. In the meantime, there are red-herrings, dead-ends, loose threads, and dangling plot twists aplenty. It's astonishing that so little can happen in such a great lot of reading. A half-decent editor could have trimmed five hundred pages out of this without harming a thing, How it received the highest writing honor available is a complete mystery.
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on March 18, 2016
I was a great fan of The Secret History and therefore eager to read something new from Donna Tartt. Unfortunately, this book was hugely disappointing. An unlikeable and unreliable narrator is only the first of many problems. I have yet to meet anyone who enjoyed this depressing and irritating book. Irritating because I hung in there until the bitter end in hopes of some miracle plot or literary manipulation would open my eyes to the strength of the writing or the story. Sadly, no such rescue was found.
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