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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 July 16, 2017
Exquisite writing. Much effort has gone into it. A very interesting story line. Well researched. New Yorkers will find the location and people very familiar. At times it drags on needlessly though. Especially at critical points author just goes on for pages before letting us in on the key facts. Not a good way when events are rapid. Two main heroes, one boy and a painting. Ending seems half finished.
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on December 1, 2013
A bit long winded, a few too many descriptions of the after effects of drug and alcohol abuse, but interesting well fleshed characters. .Hobie, a wonderful old Curiosity Shop kind of gentleman, who is Theo's substitute father and benefactor. Boris,Theo's best friend and accomplice in crime, another orphan, a crazy out of control mixed up kid, a contemporary Artful Dodger. Many fascinating details about antique restoration, New York Upper East side society, the seamy side of Las Vegas, how family and art affects our lives and so much more.
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.
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on May 6, 2016
Tartt describes the subject of the book, the painting of the goldfinch, as a mix of highly detailed and fussy brushstrokes with more open and freer methods. She says there's a joke at the center of great art such as The Goldfinch (the painting). Her writing is massively fussy. Each sentence is a well-constructed sentence, but she permitted herself (or her editor did), far too many uninteresting ones. There are many scenes you simply cannot believe are still going on. And there is no apparent joke in the book, unless its that you didn't skim. (I listened to the book on tape and would set the speed to 1.5x or 2x to get through some of it.)

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.
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on June 22, 2017
The idea of working a novel around an actual master work of paining is not a new idea, but a very good one. It interested me enough to look up the painting on the Internet, and copy off said copy on watercolor paper and it is now displayed on our piano.
Well written, but a bit long. Concerning the story, I kept hoping the major personage would get his act together long before he did.
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on September 7, 2016
I am not certain that I have the capacity or brazenness to begin to review this masterpiece. There were times I wanted the story "to get on with it", but I soon realized that every word was important and every detail crucial. I wasn't particularly cheered by any part of this book, although I did laugh out loud at times. The premise was utter, complete loss and equal redemption. You do yourself a great disservice if you don't slow down and contemplate and savor the parts of the whole. Wonderful characterization and enough incredibly thought provoking treatises on the world of art to make me dust off my father's Time Life History of Art books and be so grateful that I kept them.
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on December 31, 2013
I was disappointed when I finally finished The Goldfinch, and for all the best reasons. This book made me laugh out loud, sigh, and also deeply resonated with me. The narration of Theo is nothing less than brilliant. He is witty and funny, but he ultimately understands that in the end we are all alone in this world, a fact made clear to him by his personal loss he experiences in the beginning of the story. Due to these unfortunate events, he is plagued with sadness and loneliness. Theo's character is in direct contract to his gleeful Russian sidekick Boris, a character who jumps off the page. If you happen to know any Russians he is even funnier - Tartt is spot on. There are so many great quotes in this book and the story is so intricate that I would have to dedicate a long time writing a review that does justice to this novel (which I don't have!) The Goldfinch doesn't flinch from the sometimes miserable and ultimately lonely parts of the human condition, but Tartt is able to transcend this plight and turn it into something beautiful.
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on May 25, 2017
Usually, I am leery about reading novels that have been so critically acclaimed - nothing personal, I just typically find them to be unnecessarily long-winded and detailed, as if the author's acclaim is based on their ability to tediously describe shades of paint on a wall rather than substantial character development. Hence, it took me many years and multiple recommendations for me to brave this novel. I was not disappointed.
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on May 2, 2016
I never write reviews because I can't get myself organized to sit down and do a decent job. In this case, however, I felt the book, and other potential readers, warranted extra effort. The short version is that I had to put the book aside at a couple of points because I got so totally involved in the story and its characters that I could feel my blood pressure going up when things got very intense. It's a wonderful story, grippingly written, with characters that I came to care about a lot. The thread running throughout the story is the narrator's grief at his mother's death, which I as a reader felt and still feel - that's how powerful the book is. Now the goldfinches outside my kitchen window evoke so much. I can well understand how the book won a Pulitzer.
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on February 15, 2017
A beautifully written first-person story, so psychologically engaging that you feel the author's pain and desperate longing only too true in human nature, in the in-between space of art, love, and magic that connects us all.

Timothy A. Storlie, PhD
Author of Transformational Daydreaming
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