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on January 23, 2018
Beautiful use of English, fabulous composition. Narration of the explosion and main character's visceral reaction to it gave me a clearer sense of what it might have been like to live through 9/11 at Ground Zero. If you're into the written word but have no need for a story, this is your book. Too long, goes off in too many tangents, and is far too convoluted to be "an enjoyable summer read".
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on October 22, 2013
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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on December 31, 2013
Nothing is more satisfying to a reader than a big, thick book with a suspenseful plot and a multitude of interesting characters, all of whom come alive on the page. It's an added plus when the dialogue is natural and sounds distinctive for each character, and when the setting is so clearly described that a reader can visualize and feel the surroundings. Dickens could come up with such novels, and so, it turns out, can Donna Tartt.

The story begins in Amsterdam, with 27-year-old Theo Decker, terrified and ill, hiding out in a hotel room after an unnamed violent event. Through his narration, we are taken back to the thirteen-year-old Theo, who survives the terrorist bombing of an art museum which takes the life of his mother. Clearly suffering from survivor's guilt and PTSD, young Theo is taken in by the wealthy family of a friend, his alcoholic father having recently departed for parts unknown. We follow Theo from his life in New York as a private school student to the desolate outskirts of Las Vegas when his father reappears. Then it's back to New York as a partner in an antique business, before Amsterdam and a reluctant involvement with the criminal underworld. Binding the plot together from start to finish is a small painting, 'The Goldfinch,' the reason Theo and his mother visited the museum.

Tartt is particularly successful in the depictions of the many characters, through both indirect personal descriptions and accounts of their actions and an abundance of distinctive dialogue. The alcohol and gambling addicted father, the antique restorer Hobie who becomes a father figure, the amoral Russian boy Boris who befriends Theo in Las Vegas--all seem so real I can see and hear them in my mind.

I have never been to New York. I have never been to Las Vegas. I have never been to Amsterdam. But I feel that I know them, through Donna Tartt, just as I know Victorian England, through Charles Dickens.

This seems like an old-fashioned novel in many respects, in that it tells an extended story in detail. That seems to be rather out of fashion these days. But it is a modern novel in other respects, in that it addresses both current and universal human predicaments. The realistic ending is not "happily ever after," but then whose life ever is?

Onward through the fog.
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on May 7, 2016
I agree with many of the readers and reviewers who have gone before me. On the one hand, this book is very well written, brilliantly narrated, sharply close to the truth, captivating and entertaining. The author has an unusual skill and brilliance, which kept me reading and keen to pick it up whenever I possibly could. But on the other hand, the story unexpectedly loses momentum about three quarters of the way through. I found myself speed reading, or scanning, in order to skip what I felt was just unnecessary and very lengthy detail, so I could get back to, and pick up the storyline again. The last quarter of the book more or less loses the plot, and I became increasingly frustrated at the lack of credibility in the story and where it was going. A great read, but you have to accept that it does eventually fizzle out. Ultimately, I was left feeling disappointed at the end.
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on February 2, 2014
Wow, I just LOVE this book! I wish I had bought the hard copy so I could loan it out when I'm done! I've fallen in love with the characters, and can't wait finish it...but it's a long book! I'm only halfway through. The author builds on each relationship and every character is so interesting. This book tics off so many things I love in a novel (intrigue, mystery, crime, antiques, art, travel, more) and makes me want to know that Theo will be OK. Keeps me guessing, but teaches me something along the way. Will have to check out Donna Tartt's other novels!
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on April 6, 2015
My friend Kerry said she would wait for my review before she bought this book because she heard it was a "commitment." Goldfinch does take some time to read, but it was worth it. I was never bored, and didn't feel that anything in the book should have or could have been cut. This is not book for a quick read on an airplane or a day by the pool. It's a book to spend some time with, read a bit and think about it, let what you just read digest a bit and then move on. I have always felt that some people notice things better than others. Tartt must be a master of what she notices, because in this book she creates characters who notice what a young boy would notice, what a young girl would notice, what an elderly man would notice, what a mother who appreciates art would notice, and on and on with each character. Then once she establishes this theme, she starts to chip away at it by revealing that what they notice may not be real; that what lies under the façade may be quite different. The blending of these two themes, the details we notice and the reality we miss, makes the read quite compelling. The painting of the goldfinch is but one common thread that ties the themes together. People, places, events all get the dichotomous treatment. By the end of the book, I felt like I understood myself better, and that maybe I will pay even more attention to the beauty around me, even the hidden beauty. Not many books can provide a gift like that.
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on January 29, 2014
I struggled with the rating of this book. Overall I would probably have given it 3.5 stars. I found the book compelling and an interesting read for about the first 500 pages or so. For me the book became more tedious and repetitive after that since this is where the author really begins to devote much of the text directly to philosophy and viewpoints on life. It becomes pretty heavy and complex. Maybe trying to convey similar views over and over in different ways. The book is not really uplifting and for the most part the characters are dark and flawed. However the idea the story is too unrealistic didn't bother me as I never imagined that ultra realism was the point of the story. Although I would say that there were many realistic aspects to this story which is quite a disturbing thing for the average person to accept. You won't feel warm and fuzzy after you finish it.

As far as the characters go I came to the conclusion that most, if not all, of them were used to represent various aspects of the philosophical view the author was trying to convey. To some degree this takes away from them as fully developed characters or 'real' people. They weren't necessarily one dimensional but they definitely each had an overriding characteristic that was perhaps over-emphasized.

Generally I thought the writing was very good, descriptive and moved the story along until the last third or so of the book. This was the place where I began to skip or read rapidly through wordy passages that from my view didn't add anything at this point. I gave the book a fairly high rating because I think it is thought provoking overall and makes you think about life in ways you might not otherwise. Having said that I do understand why some readers didn't find the book interesting or enjoyable. I think the summary of the book may lead you to expect more of a dramatic story with, probably, a satisfying outcome along with some philosophical views. But the book is more a complex philosophical outlook illustrated through characters in a dramatic story.

It is interesting to see the diverse views on the book. I would say if you enjoy a more typical dramatic story with at least a somewhat satisfying outcome then you will probably be disappointed. If you can alter your expectations to allow for a different type of story and some complex views then you might find it interesting.
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on May 23, 2014
There's no denying that this is an exquisitely written book. But from the very beginning, it's a story where the protagonist does stupid things and has excruciating things happen to him. And you just know that it's never really going to get better as his background and his basic personality result in him sabotaging every chance that comes his way, and sinking himself deeper and deeper into difficulties. It's a very long book, and while there are some moments of transcendence, there's so little happiness.
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on December 17, 2013
I loved parts of this novel--the concept behind it is moving and original and what the author is trying to convey here is likewise moving and quite profound. The main character, who is also the narrator, is very well and sympathetically drawn on the whole and Boris, a major character, is brilliantly drawn. The author has a huge talent and is a wizard with words. The writing at best -- especialy the descriptions of settings --landscapes and room interiors--is very evocative and moody and the author conveys Manhattan and Los Vegas and the desert so visually and vividly it's as if the reader is there. She is a very visual writer and what she has to say about art and loss and life itself is conveyed with a fine subtlety and poignancy. The ending was so moving and beautiful it knocked my socks off.

That said, I found the novel too long by far -- there is far too much minor and often superfluous detail and at times its just dryly reported --a mere flat itemizing of room furnishings, what people are wearing and the like. Up to a point, this kind of detail is necessary to the subject matter but there's just too much of it and when it's merely reported flatly reported by the narrator, it's not only tedious but breaks the otherwise fine immediacy and personal voice of his narrrative. Ironically, this kind of impersonal reportage is the more obtrusive because the story is so very involving and immediate on the whole. I also found the story itself just plain too long--there are too many minor episodes so that the flow of the story and it's main outlines get submerged. I think this novel needed ruthless editing and cutting back. This is just my view -- a friend of mine disagrees with me that the novel is too long but I got so bored at times I even thought of not finishing it. I did, however, because it is essentially too fine a novel to give up on and I would have missed the sublime ending if I had done so. I think this novel is a flawed masterpiece or, if that is an oxymoron, that it would have been a masterpiece if far shorter and the writing less uneven. Flaws and all, however, it is one of the best contemporary novels I have read in years.
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on July 8, 2017
I agree with so many reviewers here...this book need a good editor and 200 less pages. I tend to think that good writing can overcome a marginal story. The writing here could be so perfect, so descriptive, so believable. There were chapters where I soaked in every beautifully crafted word. But then there were others where I almost wondered if this was the same writer. In fact, finishing this book was hard and that's too bad because the promise of a great novel is here.
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