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Showing 1-10 of 20,922 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 25,141 reviews
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 March 26, 2017
I really don’t know where to begin with this novel. It’s long - nearly 800 pages - and densely written. It’s been said many times about this novel that it’s ‘Dickensian’: well, superficially, I suppose. There’s an ‘Old Curiosity Shop’ of sorts, run by a kindly old man, Hobie, and any number of other modern counterparts to characters found in Great Expectations or Oliver Twist. But where Dickens’ characters like Oliver Twist, Nell, and others are true victims of circumstances beyond their control, worthy of our pity, Theo and Boris in THE GOLDFINCH bring most of their misery onto themselves. They stumble through much of the book in an alcohol or drug-induced haze. They lie, steal, hang with the wrong people. As interesting and colorful as they may be, pity is not something I’d feel for them. They are not particularly likable characters.

That’s not to say their story doesn’t make for a fascinating and entertaining read.

The GOLDFINCH is the story of Theodore (Theo) Decker, 13 years old when the novel opens, and his strange and harrowing journey to adulthood, a Bildungsroman in literary terms.

After he loses his mother in a terrorist bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, purloining the eponymous painting in the process (his mother’s favorite), he’s taken in by Hobie, antique furniture collector and restorer. We follow him through his own words as he struggles with the loss of his mother, and his many adventures as he grows up, always the presence of that painting, the Goldfinch, there to both chain him irrevocably to his mother and her death at the Met, and also to haunt him as he fears the consequences of his theft should it ever be discovered.

With all its faults -- implausible plot twists, overlong and tedious descriptions at times, unlikable protagonist, pretentious philosophizing tacked on the end to ensure ‘literary’ status -- with all the faults Tartt’s prose is wonderful. An enjoyable read. And while it may not rate as one of my all time favorite novels, it's okay. I’m glad I spent the time with it.
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on January 9, 2017
I was very disappointed with this novel, especially because so many friends had recommended it. I found the first third of the story very engaging, and I sympathized with this 13-year-old boy who was left alone to find answers to difficult questions about his place in the world. But then the story became cluttered with many characters, some of whom were unbelievable and unnecessary. Additionally, the story was bogged down in repetition. I found myself thinking, "OK. I get it. Now can we get on with it." Las Vegas ad nauseoum; drug stupors ad nauseum; Boris and his cronies ad nauseum. After a year of picking the book up and then putting it aside for a while (at least 6 times), I finally managed to finish it. Even in ending the novel, the author couldn't leave well enough alone but felt compelled to tie up all the loose ends in a very cliche manner. On a positive note, the author is a master of detail and description, and uses language artfully. I enjoyed her writing style, but wish she had cut 200 pages from the book.
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on September 23, 2014
Innovative idea to guide one through multiple stories by using the painting. However, there are many tried and true plot clichés: Dead parent...plot changes directions, crazy, alcoholic, druggie stereotypical Russian shows up....plot direction changes, switching real art for fake without a character's knowledge, dysfunction in a "perfect appearing" family, the list goes on and on. Nothing original other that use of the painting.

As others have written, this is truly a book of at least four stories. Each if fully explored could have been interesting. The reader is asked to suspend belief in reality and not ask why the main character "drifted" through life and never took control of his life or even thought of taking control of his life. The novel is truly too long by about 300 pages and really reads like an ambitious first novel. I am surprised at how simplistic it is. The Amsterdam scenes are truly the most badly written. She is not a crime novelist. Nor is Ms. Tartt a good philosopher: Life is short, Beautiful objects that inspire transcend time, really....???? I never would have guessed those pearls of wisdom.

Not sure how this won a the Pulitzer over Phillipp Meyer's "The Son". "The Son" is a much more cohesive story and is much more intelligently written with beautiful descriptive passages.
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Donna Tartt has written a novel, a tome, that is as much about love, life and beauty as it is about nihilism, catastrophe and death.

Written in the first person, 12 year-old Theo Decker's life is divided into before and after his mother's death. Together, he and his mother are on their way to his school for a conference to discuss some unknown behavioral issues of Theo's. On the way, due to bad weather, they stop at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. While there, some terrorists bomb the museum and his mother is killed. As Theo searches for his mother, he meets a dying man named Welty who gives him an antique ring that he asks him to deliver to someone named Hobart. He also meets a girl named Pippa to whom he forms a lifelong obsessive attachment and love. When Theo finds out that his mother has died, he is devastated. His father has walked out on them over a year ago and is a mean drunk and a gambler.

Most importantly, when Theo leaves the museum, he walks out with a small masterpiece under his arm. It is entitled The Goldfinch and the artist is Fabritius. Painted in the latter 1600's it is one of only a few of Fabritius's work that has survived. For Theo, it represents something stable, a way of holding on to something that was meaningful to his mother, and thus a part of her.

The novel takes us though Theo's life into his twenties. We first go with him to the Barbour family that takes him in after his mother's death. Their son Andy has been a friend of Theo's for a few years. Both are outcasts in their middle school and are prone to being the brunt of bullies. The Barbours are very rich and enjoy Theo but are not demonstrative. Mr. Barbour has recently been released from a psychiatric hospital and his behavior is somewhat odd. The Barbour children, other than Andy, resent Theo's presence. Despite this, however, Theo likes it there and would like to remain with them. His only remaining relatives are his father, whereabouts unknown, and his paternal grandparents, unloving and not wanting to take Theo in.

Out of the blue, Theo's father appears with his girlfriend Xandra and they take Theo with them to Las Vegas. There, Theo meets Boris who becomes a lifelong friend. Together, they get into hardcore drugs, illegal activities and drinking. Theo's father is living well due to a good gambling streak but things start to fall apart and it is not long before Theo is back in New York City where he finds shelter with Hobart (Hobie) in his antique store. Theo's life is a mess. He is heavily into drugs and constantly blames himself for his mother's death.

All the while, Theo holds on to the Goldfinch like a talisman. He keeps it wrapped up most of the time but unwraps it now and then to look at it and revel in its beauty and personal meaning. He knows he should return it but he keeps putting that off.

The novel is longer than it needs to be. Ms. Tartt, who can write beautifully, often goes into tangents and philosophical discussions that are unnecessary. Characters come and go who are like red herrings. Despite this, the book has its brilliant aspects. The characterization of Theo is superb and his despair and longing is brought out in depth. The symptoms of his post-traumatic stress disorder are clinically accurate. I enjoyed this book immensely but I wish that the editing had been tighter.
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on January 28, 2014
What could have been an interesting story was turned into this mammoth book where the writer is voluble to the extreme. I did stick with it until the last page where all of a sudden the end came like a train hitting a brick wall. In fact the ending was so abrupt it had me looking to see if I truly were missing pages. About the only story line that came to a conclusion was that the painting was back where it belonged.

I found that I couldn't engage with the main character until a third of the way into the book and even then I couldn't care about him. About the only character that garnered any sympathy was Hobie, the partner of the man who also died in the bombing and , who took Theo in when he had no place to go. Hobie is the only stalwart character in Theo's life it seems and it's Hobie you care for when Theo betrays Hobie's trust in him.

The main character is a young boy called Theo. Theo is traumatized when his mother is killed in a bombing at a museum. Finding his way out of the rubble, Theo steals the painting of the Goldfinch that his mother had loved and aids a dying man who gives him a ring to give to his partner. From there Theo's life plays out in a series of misfortunes, drugs and drugs and more drugs, art theft, antique forgery and bad choices in general. If there is any redemption in Theo's story it is unbelievable as the prior 800 pages have told the reader that Theo reverts to drugs and lies whenever life gets to tough for him.
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on March 29, 2017
Around 20 years ago I came across Donna Tartt's first novel, The Secret History, in a hostel in Tokyo, on a bookshelf where guests leave behind books for others to read. I fell in love with that book, have read it twice more since then (very unusual for someone like me who rarely rereads books), and recommend it first to anyone who asks me for a good book to read. While I really enjoyed Tartt's second novel, The Little Friend, for me it's The Goldfinch that comes close to evoking the level of passion I felt for her first work. Like the objects that Tartt writes about in the novel, this book is one that I will treasure. The book has characters that I feel have become friends, and relates a journey through life that puts my own in perspective. But I also appreciate how the novel reminds us how our individual encounters with art (and literature) can connect us with a sublime beauty underneath and beyond surface features, historical significance, or communal interpretation. It reminds us how a personal connection with things invests meaning in life. I think often about whether I'm making the best use of the time I have remaining. Tartt's book reassured me of the importance of art and literature in my life, and I'm glad I found a new treasure in The Goldfinch. I'm looking forward next to returning to The Secret History one more time.
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on June 2, 2014
Where was the editor on this overlong, redundant, tiresome book? It started with a winning premise, intriguing characters, and stellar writing, then went on and on and on and...well, you get the idea. If I'd bought the print edition, I'd have thrown it against the wall in utter frustration. But I wasn't about to break my Kindle.

If you like self-indulgent descriptions of drug abuse and alcoholism, this is the protagonist for you. He wastes his life, takes advantage of characters who are kind to him in the wake of his tragedy, and gets buffeted around like an aimless boat adrift on a sea of boredom. Early on, I felt sorry for him. But after 500 or 600 pages, he still showed no signs of life and I got fed up. I only finished the book on the recommendation of a friend who insisted it got better. It didn't. Maybe every 75-100 pages, there was a brilliant line buried in redundancy. But not worth slogging through the verbiage to unearth a few tiny gems.

Wait for the Cliff Notes.
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on May 16, 2014
Sent from my iPhone

Begin forwarded But that afforded the author plenty of time to hook me and she did not.:

Date: May 16, 2014, 7:29:33 AM EDT
I read "The Secret History" years ago and liked it and I think somewhere in the tsunami of words that is "The Goldfinch" there's a good 300-page book. But in its current form, I found it unreadable. Donna Tartt does have a way with words, I will give her that, but she needs to be told by somebody when to rein it in and "murder her darlings." Unfortunately these days, publishers with an eye on the bottom line, simply don't shell out money on editors. Many of my issues could have been so easily rectified by the blue pencil marks of a good editor.

Okay, I admit I only read the first part through the catastrophe at the Metropolitan Museum. That afforded the author plenty of time to hook me, but she patently did not. I couldn't continue; it was just so poorly written.

People may think I am overly picky, but I consider myself a well-qualified critic having grown up in New York City enjoying a life quite similar to Theo, fortunately, without the tragedies. I am also an art historian and a writer.

"The Goldfinch" has been hailed as great literature and even won the Pulitzer Prize! Shouldn't such an award be reserved for excellence?

It's no wonder in recent years I have become very cynical about prizes, reviews and ratings, having seen in recent years overly favorable New York Times reviews written by writers I know to be the authors' friends. Corruption seems to be everywhere these days.

I believe reading a book of this ilk should be effortless, like you're driving down a road and it's smooth sailing all the way. There shouldn't be all these bumps along the way causing you to slam on the brakes. You shouldn't notice the writing at all unless it's something that stops you in your tracks because it's so beautifully expressed, or there's an occasional word you need to look up. While I think digressions can be an effective conceit, experiencing two significant ones in the paltry part I did read, made me suspect that during the course of the novel, Tartt was going to overuse them. Her ungainly scaffolding and ornate wordsmithery was all too apparent for me and I felt like I was slogging through a morass.

Other specific complaints:

Tartt talks about how precarious Theo and his mother's finances are and yet they live in a doorman building in Sutton Place, take cabs everywhere and seem to eat out all the time.

Would she really have gone into the Metropolitan Museum, which opens at 10 when she had an important appointment with her son's principal across town at 11:30? Much less waste time at the gift shop buying a book for her boss (I know she actually never got there, but she was planning to.) And Tartt obviously hasn't been buying art books; they are hardly "inexpensive."

Nobody in New York refers to the subway as "the train" it's "the subway."

After the explosion, Tartt describes Theo trying to locate train fare--Hello? It would be a Metrocard. Theo suggests getting a Metrocard as a gift for Mathilde so why wasn't Tartt consistent?

Tartt also mentions him taking the train to school. Would he really take the train from East 57th Street to the Upper West Side? Far more likely, he'd take a crosstown bus and transfer to an uptown bus (or possibly a subway at that point). And he'd have a student Metrocard, which would save his mother a bundle.

The boy's conversation with his mother and thoughts and observations about her work at a fashion PR firm were completely unbelievable. He's supposed to be a 13-year old boy, give him the voice, thoughts and mannerisms of a 13-year old boy! During That whole section Tartt seemed to be grandstanding about how much she knows about the fashion world.

I find the reference to a "school on the Upper West Side" overly coy. Just name it, or make up a name. She's names the Lycée Français after all. And Theo certainly wouldn't refer to it as "my school on the Upper West Side" when talking to the old man.

The death of the old man was excruciatingly long (not in a you-are-there way; in a boring and overly-lengthy way) and repetitive. Tartt could have accomplished so much more with so much less. I suggest she read "Atonement" for tips on astringent, powerful prose.

She overused words that tend to jump out at the reader like "loitering" and "grappling." Does Tartt not own a Thesaurus? It would be so easy to substitute synonyms...

While I thought her observations about the paintings were interesting, I couldn't shake the feeling that she was showing off and didn't quite believe the way Tartt's mouthpiece, the mother, was talking to her young boy. Compounded with everything else it was just too much and it was irritating.

I used to think it was terrible to not finish a book, now I realize life's too short, to wallow through drivel. Next!
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on November 6, 2015
First, before I launch into my tirade about The Goldfinch, I must proffer full disclosure: I did not READ The Goldfinch but rather listened to it as an audio version. Having stated that, I ask, why did Ms. Tartt win a Pulitzer for this??? The Pulitzer should have instead been awarded to the three reference books she evidently used to write this novel, i.e., The Great Big Book of Similes; The Great Big Book of Metaphors; and, The Thesaurus. This audio version was 26 CDs which turns out to have been about 20 CDs too long!!! At around CD #16 I wanted to quit as the thought of another 10 was akin to punishment for some past act of negative karma

It takes, at the minimum, two things for an audio CD to be good: a good reader and a good story. This had the former but not the latter.
The narrator, one David Pittu, is an excellent reader. He brought many characters to life with his ability to adopt accents, tone and inflection as they might have had they really existed. But, by about disk 15 or so, I grew very weary of his voice. It wasn't his fault, it was the novel. I mentioned the three reference volumes above, even if two do not exist, because it seemed to me that for every verb or adjective Ms.Tartt wanted to use, she referred to the Thesaurus and used every synonym she could find and applied them rather than just the word itself. In the same manner, every event was described with every available simile and or metaphor she could possible pad the sentance/paragraph/novel with. Towards the end I found myself groaning aloud things such as "Come on already, what is it you want to say!" or, "Get on with it!". Fortunately, these statement were made on my early morning walks with few people to startle.

I found the main character to be whinny and basically ineffectual but instead, warming up to Boris's carpe diem nature. I mostly enjoyed the passages in which he was featured but that in itself was not sufficient for me to give this review any more than one star. If it had not been for the raves my family and friends gave to The Goldfinch and, in particular my ex wife, who persuaded me to continue on when I was ready to can it at disk 16, claiming that it "got really good", I would have quit - and it takes a lot for me to quit a book! Unfortunately, I persevered and in retrospect, I am sorry I did for the promised "really good" ending was just rambling sophomoric life philosophy.
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