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Showing 1-10 of 21,174 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 25,483 reviews
on January 23, 2014
Exhausted and unsatisfied when I finished. Disappointed in life view of protagonist and his inability to escape the impact of his early trauma and DNA. Yet, this book kept you moving forward with the hope of resolution on many levels and several of the characters are enduring.
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on December 1, 2014
Ms. Tartt’s new novel has much going for it. First of all, it has some heft to it. There’s something said for a novelist willing to dig into a story and suss out its depths. Ms. Tartt’s descriptions, particularly of antique art and furniture as well as locales around NYC, provide a texture too often missing in shorter works, not to mention the time she spends delving into the personality of her main character, Theo. In general, she has created an experience well worth having.

In longer novels, too, it is easier to be forgiving of weaknesses in plot and character. Unfortunately, Ms. Tartt is in need of quite a bit of forgiveness. Plot holes fall within the scope of suspending disbelief until near the end, when we end up in a parking garage in Amsterdam. Of course, near the end is probably the worst spot to place your most unbelievable scene, as it sticks in the memory.

The biggest problem, however, is the personality of our main character. Clearly, Theo undergoes a severe trauma at the beginning of the novel which follows him throughout his life. Still, it can be difficult to sustain interest in a character that develops very little over the course of his life. One can understand his descent into drugs and crime as a teenagers cast out on his own, but as he grows older and nothing really changes for him, it becomes more difficult to sympathize with him. After 500 pages of drug-addled poor decision-making, things get a bit boring, relying on secondary characters and surprises—a couple real poppers—to keep the interest going.

Granted, there are some great supporting players here. Boris, Theo’s friend in exile, is the unforgettable, charming id of the book. Hobie is a great, gentle, imperfect father figure. Pippa is the girl on a pedestal. Even the wealthy Barbours, who help Theo in a distracted way near the beginning of the book, becoming quite interesting, especially when Theo encounters them again later in the novel. But they cannot quite counter the weakness in Theo as our guide.

Still, there are pleasures to be had throughout the book. The first half is spectacular, really capturing the despair of a teenage boy in crisis. The second half is tougher going, but is by no means a disaster. Ms. Tartt deserves credit for producing another quality novel.
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on July 31, 2017
I started "The Goldfinch" with a bit of trepidation, because I didn't love "The Little Friend," and I also didn't care for the last Pulitzer winner I picked up. But from the first few pages of "The Goldfinch," I was hooked. I read it with my morning coffee, at night with cup after cup of tea (past my bedtime...), and as often as possible in between.

I knew nothing of the plot when I started the book, and if at all possible, that is how I suggest reading it: Avoid plot summaries and just jump in. I had no idea even of the expository events that were coming, and the lack of fore knowledge gave them even greater impact.

Here are some of the other things I loved: the vivid characters; the wit of the prose (not perfect 100% of the time -- but wonderful most of the time); the detailed and perfectly realized settings, and the completely engrossing plot. The novel's tremendous scope -- it spans years and continents -- made the narrative even more engaging. After following the lead character through such a long journey, it was impossible not to feel deeply invested in his fate.

I will concede there were a few things about the book that I could find fault with. First, there were a couple of twists of fate that were a bit hard to swallow, or at least I thought so at first. (Once I was firmly living in the world of the novel, I stopped measuring it so much in that way.) Also, I felt the novel was a little bit too talky in places. That is, there were a few concepts that were spelled out in lengthy dialog or in the narrator's voice, particularly toward the end, and I would have preferred if the action of the story had conveyed those ideas by themselves.

However, these are just nitpicks. For me, "The Goldfinch" was the kind of novel that was so enjoyable and unique, I feel I owe the author a lot more than the $8.99 I spent on the Kindle version of the book. I enjoyed this novel so much that I found myself starting to feel sad as I reached the final 20 pages or so -- not because of anything that was happening to the characters, but because I hated the idea of having to leave the story and its universe. For me, having that kind of sadness at the end of a book is one of the signs that I've just read something amazing.

It's been a long time since I first read "The Secret History," but "The Goldfinch" was totally worth the wait. If Tartt's next novel is anywhere close to this good, I'll happily wait another 10 or 20 years for it!
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on August 5, 2014
I really enjoyed this book. I had to start it four different times but once I was in it was compulsively readable. It was a book club selection and I felt a bit of trepidation because I found the Secret History to be a bit of a slog. I know there are some in the "literary circles" who've got their panties in a wad because they feel this isn't "literary" enough. I've read accusations that it's children's literature akin to Harry Potter and that it's lazy writing filled with cliches. There was one woman critic - I'm not naming names - who's decried the fact that the book is only popular because people don't know how to read anymore. While it's true that we live in a world where many people use the letters "u" and "r" as words (and not just in text messages) I have to disagree. As a reader I want to spend time with characters in a world that are interesting enough so that I suspend my disbelief and keep turning the pages to see what will happen and in this case I want to know what will happen to Theo Decker.

This book is total escapist fiction in the very best way.

My life just seems to get more and more busy and stressful and I don't want to read a book that feels like homework in my English Lit class. I want someone to draw me a world in words that is just a great time out. Although there was that one day where I read it for six hours straight and got dehydrated.

Other books that gave me a similar experience were Shantaram and The Brothers K - I got lost in the Goldfinch in the same way.
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on March 24, 2015
So I finished The Goldfinch around midnight last night and awoke this morning with a strong impulse to reread the last segment. The philosophic musings led me right back to the beginning in order to somehow try and bookend Theo's story to the reader (no one?). I was struck with the troubling thought that I almost lost the drive to continue it somewhere around the time of Theo's engagement, having almost lost interest in what good could possibly happen with the treasure safely locked away, and feeling discouraged with how Theo's unsettled and unfulfilled life was unfolding. However, the painting itself seemed to beckon and thank goodness it did, because it would have been such a terrible thing had I not read just a few pages more! All of a sudden, I was turning pages as fast as I could - so fast, in fact, that I would go back, frustrated with myself, to make sure I devoured all the details. Then, finally, to my relief, I saw a way out of the strife -everything would be ok -Theo and the poor little bird would be ok! At last, all seemed right with the world again. Feeling as though I had somehow escaped some great near disaster, I relished the end, and finally absorbed what it all meant to me, personally - an epiphany, really.
To those of you who have not read the book, you should! To those of you stuck in the middle of this book, keep reading, and take me at my word that it is ALL necessary for the complete tale (saw in an Amazon review a comment about editor needed?). Finally to those who have finished the book, and have my feelings about it, we know we share a rare secret, don't we?
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VINE VOICEon November 30, 2013
This is a very long book that follows Theo Decker from losing his mother in a terrorist bombing at a museum they were visiting. This was where he first laid eyes on a beautiful red-haired girl with her grandfather. When Theo awakes, dazed from the explosion, her grandfather beckons Theo, thinking he is someone else, gives him a ring and an address. He also points to a piece of canvas in the rubble, The Goldfinch, a rare painting that was a favorite of his mothers. He takes it, still dazed and looking for his mom. He can't find her so he heads home, following a plan they had made for emergencies. But she never shows as she didn't make it out alive. Theo goes to live with the family of a school friend, until his deadbeat dad arrives to take him to Las Vegas. There Theo becomes friends with another outcast, Boris, a well-traveled and far more experienced person than Theo. Then things change and Theo finds himself back in New York now living with Hobie, an antiques dealer, who lives at the address given to Theo by the man at the museum.
Throughout his travels, Theo keeps the painting close to him as it reminds him of his mother. But as the years pass, Theo realizes the painting is on a list of paintings that most likely survived the blast. He is now scared of getting in trouble and causing trouble for the people he knows.
For the most part I really enjoyed this novel, much more than The Little Friend. But it could have used some editing. The story is many things, a coming of age story, which can get a little tiring, especially during his time in Las Vegas. I liked Boris but a little of him went a long way, then he shows up again when Theo is in NY, engaged to be married and working with Hobie.
I also found it annoying how Theo hid the painting, afraid to get caught, instead of mailing it back anonymously.
This could easily had 200 pages cut from it, and the ending after the ending is just a long, rambling philosophical extra that should have been cut. I don't know how these almost great works get by a really good editor. It was worth the read but I'd never re-read it
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on September 7, 2017
Who am I to review a Pulitzer winning novel? This is already highly acclaimed...I found this to be beautifully written but at times overly so. Many themes are haunting me after having finally finished it. So many reviews focus on obsession - I continue to think about the sadness, shared experience of loss and the descriptions of drug use and addiction in this book. Some passages go on for too long. The somewhat tidy ending surprised me. But this book will haunt me for a while and therefore left a deep impression.
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on August 16, 2016
I understand why this book was a best seller, but am horrified that it won a Pulitzer Prize.

The plot driven action and stereotypical characters were quite entertaining. Felt like Harry Potter meets Jason Bourne. I also enjoyed the author's excitement about the magical sensory experience of art enjoyment.

That said, the characters were shallow, poorly developed beyond basic stereotypes, completely unbelievable (Theo has the same level of insight at 13 as at 27 - at no point did he feel like a child. He speaks like a 44 year old the entire time ... meanwhile Boris goes in and out of his quasi-Russian accent. Every now and then he sounds like an English professor.) The early onset drug abuse and parental abandonment was so extreme, it's hard to imagine these particular boys grew up to be as culturally sophisticated as they are purported to be. Also, I found the plot completely unbelievable, which was fine as an action story but could not be taken seriously. The philosophy also felt like new age cliché, written in the end in a forced monologue wrap up, and unsubstantiated by anything developed within the actual characters. Of course, I am glad Theo eventually dreamed of his mother and found some semblance of hope in the end.
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on January 26, 2014
I first encountered Donna Tartt in the eighth grade, when my English teacher, a Donna Tartt enthusiast, told us all about a book that she had recently published. I haven't reread The Little Friend since 2003, though I probably will go back and read it at some point this year, but when I heard about the release of Tartt's latest book, I knew it would have to go on my list. It took me a little while to get around to actually starting it, mostly because of the mixed reviews and the length (just under 800 pages), but I should not have let either stop me. Donna Tartt's novels are right up my alley - dark, a little twisted, fantastic writing, and always a compelling plot.

The novel begins with the main character of this bildungsroman, Theo, visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art with his mother. Two sites that Theo views that day play heavily into the directionality of the plot: the first is a young girl walking with an older gentleman and the second is a painting that he and his mother discuss. A bomb goes off causing, well, the chaos you might expect if a bomb were to go off at the Met. Theo decides to take the painting, Carel Fabritius' The Goldfinch that he and his mother were viewing, giving little thought to the ramifications of pilfering a priceless work. The novel from that point follows Theo as he grows up, adjusting to a vastly changed existence after the attack and maneuvering through life with an invaluable stolen painting. The young girl, Pippa, that he had seen on the day of the attack, ebbs in and out of the plot, a love interest from the moment Theo spots her.

The characters in this novel definitely stand out. Each is vividly written, a unique persona with quirks and flaws not duplicated; each feels real. From Theo's father, an alcoholic with a gambling problem who lives in a large but basically unfurnished house in Nevada with his pill-popping, loud-mouthed girlfriend, to Boris, the Ukranian transplant, who introduces Theo to teenage life, Tartt's characters carry the story. Each has multiple layers and keeps the reader curious and engaged, wanting to know more about their thoughts and rationales. There are dozens of little side stories going on, as the world spins around Theo, and the story that the author weaves is so rich that it's as if any one of these characters could have their own novel.

Let's talk a little bit about Fabritius' painting, because it's very helpful in understanding Theo. I loved the art history tie in and the fact that the details about the artist in the novel were true. Carel Fabritius was a Dutch painter from Delft (same origin as Vermeer). He lived during the mid-1600s, was an extremely talented student of Rembrandt. He died when he was young in a gunpowder magazine explosion, which also destroyed many of his paintings. The Goldfinch is unique amidst Fabritius' oeuvre. It captures a living animal, as opposed to a portrait of a single human or a biblical scene. The bird is bathed in a very delicate light, perched upon a box and tethered to the wall indoors by a thin chain. The painting itself is physically very small, only about 13x9 inches, with rough brushstrokes only purportedly noticed when the viewer is close.

There are a number of links that can arguably be made between the main character and this painting. Firstly, the explosion that kills Fabritius himself and destroys most of his work parallels the terrorist attack that Theo experiences. One might even argue that what is left of Theo's psyche after that day is somewhat like the bird, imprisoned and chained to a bleak and undefined landscape. We could even say, perhaps, that the way other characters see Theo is like observers view The Goldfinch, from afar, he is composed and complete, but up close just a mess of emotions and experiences.

Despite the length, the plot moves quickly as Theo travels about, from New York, to Las Vegas, to Amsterdam. Two parts of this novel bothered me enough to note. Don't get me wrong, they didn't make me rethink my impression as a whole, which was in the strong-like category, but each was slightly vexing. The first was Theo's spiral into drugs and alcohol. This honestly was just not a topic I relate to, and I kept wanting to shake him and say "get it together," always figuring that moment was coming sooner than it was.

The second aspect was the ending, which was not with a bang or a nice little knot, but more of a whisper. There is a surprising lack of resolution for a story that seemed to build to so much. Maybe we can chalk all that up to the post-9/11, ego-centric, and zombified reality that Tartt has created, a neat ending just would not fit in this world. I didn't feel like this story needed the massive zoom-out that it had before concluding, the rehash of Fabritius, the reason for the penning of the tale, Theo's ponderings on what having written all this down will mean. To me, it felt a little like that section of Atlas Shrugged where you just keep waiting for the author to get back to the story and stop yammering on about this other stuff.

Putting all that aside, if you're a Donna Tartt fan, of course don't pass this up. I haven't read her other two novels in quite some time, so I can't pass judgement on how this one stacks up in comparison. If you've never read her, well, I might recommend starting at the beginning, with The Secret History and savoring over all three. This is an author who has published once every 10 years, and each novel has some heft, but the stories all move quickly. You have to like dark motifs and twisted occurrences though, so if that's not your cup of tea, you should probably run in the other direction.

Check out this and other great reviews at Bookasaurus dot Weebly dot Com.
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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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