As I mentioned in a post I made a while ago, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is a book about grief. But it’s such a unique book that I just cannot compare it to anything and it’s really really hard for me to actually review this book.
I’ve seen very varied thoughts on this book, and I feel weird reading thoughts of people who really really loved the book or really really hated the book. For me, this book was a mix of both – I both loved and hated it. But I can absolutely say that my experience of reading this story is so different than any other and it will always stick to me.
The Goldfinch is a novel that tells the life of Theodore Decker, a boy who lost his mother in a bomb that happened in an art museum in New York. Theo was there and he survived, and in shock he left the building bringing a valuable painting, The Goldfinch. Beware of spoilers for this review!
Title: The Goldfinch
Author: Donna Tartt
Date Published: June 5th 2014
Num of pages: 864
Date read: September 15th 2015
Firstly I would start off with the main character, Theo. In the first part of the book, I was kind of indifferent about him. He was a great narrator, but I didn’t really like his personality. I guess he began to grew on me as he deals with his grief and sadness and mostly during his life in Vegas. That was when I sort of really liked him as a character. I also like how he deals on the things that he went through, and his trail of thoughts along the way. It’s really interesting for me to read about how is grief was not written in the way of “oh I’m so sad i can’t live anymore” but more like him feeling numb and expecting her on the corner of the house, or him seeing her on his dreams. Although sometimes Theo might seem like an asshole, I never really grew sick of reading to his thoughts.
On the other characters, I really really liked Boris. He’s really something, I like how he talk and acts and I looooove his relationship with Theo, and how Theo is just basically infatuated with him. For the others, not many really stuck to me, strangely. But I do like all the characters through Theo’s eyes, because I like how he describes the people he meets. I love how Tartt introduces a character very vividly, from their clothes to how they stand up and their body language. It’s one of my favourite things about the book, Tartt’s writing.
Speaking of writing… Although I really like her descriptions of characters, I do agree with a lot of other people that this book was unnecessarily too long and too winding. Tartt put in way too many things and moments that weren’t important into the book, and it kind of bummed me out. It’s weird how she’d spend chapters and chapters on a section of his life, say, his moment in Vegas but then skip for 7 or something years after that and didn’t include any details of his life in New York afterwards. I felt like if this book had been cut down to, say, 500 pages it’ll be more compact and the readers would be able to grasp the story better.
Nonetheless, I just couldn’t help being captivated by every scene she writes, even though in the end when I look back, that scene didn’t really do anything that affects the storyline that much.
Moving on to the storyline, this book wasn’t like any other stories I’ve read (like I’ve said before). I kind of liked it, in the sense that it’s waaaay different from the usual books that I read (i.e., YA novels) that are fast paced and has this whole straight conflict and resolution arc. In here it feels more like a memoir of Theo, his life from the great big incident until he grew up. Which was great but I just expected more of a climax at the end that was exciting and mind-blowing, and there wasn’t any of that in this book. Yet I really do like the way things happened, how everything that Theo went through really shaped him.
Basically, this book tells about Theo’s life, and in the end it circles back to the beginning which is his mother’s death. The essence of the book for me was him dealing with that, through the painting, but also how he grew as a person from that experience. The painting, his love life, his career, it was all affected by that tremendous moment involving his mother and to read his thoughts at the end of the book about life and that particular part of him dreaming about meeting his mother, it was really deep and interesting to read. Not to mention the revelation that all along it was Theo who was writing the story to us.
In addition to the story and the characters, I love the writing and description of the book. Although, I must admit, this isn’t a perfect book, it really is something different, something unlike any kind of book I’ve read before and I’m very satisfied with it. Not to mention it left a deep impression to me. As I’ve mentioned in a post from some time ago, I was probably only a third of the book when I visited the Mauritshuis Museum to actually see the Goldfinch painting in real life! And I wouldn’t spend so much time and effort to do that if I didn’t like the book. This book also made me want to visit New York, and even want to get high, just to experience what Theo was experiencing.
Every setting of place and every moment in parts of the book was narrated so wonderfully that you can feel the atmosphere of the location as if you were actually there. I could totally understand why this book received so many acclaims and awards.
The Goldfinch left me with so many feels and a deep impression, and even though it was way too long and though some of the characters weren’t that memorable to me, I really really enjoyed this book despite its weaknesses.