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Showing 1-10 of 20,972 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 25,214 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 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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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 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 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 March 25, 2014
This book could have used fewer words and seriously it's just words and words filled page after page. Everything is described in the utmost detail except for the story itself. The story itself, it just meanders around. There is a boy, there is his mother, there is his friend, there is another friend and some more people and god alone knows when these characters will actually do something. Oh and there is a torn painting or something that is supposed to be a big deal. I skipped 5-10 pages at a time and still never seemed to miss a beat in the story which did I mention just goes on and on.

I know this book has received a lot of rave reviews but I am quite sure their copy had fewer words and more meaning. My copy was just a bore. And before I bore the reader of this review, I shall sign off. Someone tell me how it ends since I am still skipping pages.
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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 1, 2016
Pulitzer Prize or not, this novel would profit from a brisk editing, if only to impose some structure on what is currently an utterly shapeless narrative. That said, even the meandering here is fun to read. Ms. Tartt's twin gifts for characterization and dialogue kept me riveted when the temptation to walk away from this tsunami of words was strong. The narrator, his father, his friend Boris, the family he lives with and even the dog-- all are unforgettable characters whose originality and unpredictability make them come alive on the page. All wonderful stuff. If only there weren't so MUCH of it.

My only disappointment came about at the end when the author succumbed to the temptation to tell us What It All Means. Flat footed and ham handed, an explanation of the previous 700 or so pages spoiled the book for me in the most amateurish way possible. Given that the central metaphor of the book explains the human condition just fine -- a bird created to fly is tethered to earth by a frustrating chain-- we really don't need any protracted explanations of the book. Authors should trust their readers to Get It.

Read this, though, for her mesmerizing voice and for characters you'll never forget. Those two things are worth the time you'll invest here.
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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 May 10, 2015
The things I learned from this book:

Donna Tartt knows a s*** ton about
- obscure yet important
- works of art
- vintage and priceless furniture
- restoration of said vintage and priceless furniture
- veneers, all grains and how to fake them
- wood fillers
- aging wood to deceive
- the myriad policies on liberated minors in Nevada and New York
- explosions
- excessive (like insane-excessive, like these-kids-should-be-dead-by-now excessive) alcohol and drug consumption
- prescription drug abuse and abusers
- opiates
- withdrawal symptoms from opiates
- depression from symptoms of withdrawal from opiates
- theft
- duplicity
- expat Russians of dubious intent
- vodka
- art storage facilities
- how to write about people talking about sailing
- NYC's upper east side and the vacuous culture therein, while also being "nice" about it
- airports
- buses
- cool music teens listen to
- vomit
- waking in vomit or with vomit caked on a person
- text messaging as a teenager
- the burning sensation of sunlight on the eyes of an addict or hungover teenager
- smoke, all vagaries: lingering, silvery, billowing, sylvan, streaming, breathy, wispy and wafting
- pool care
- big fancy words, such as "sang-froid"
- how to waste 250 pages without adding one iota to a story's value or progress
- making you wish you'd read something else.
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