Monday, January 19, 2015

The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt; © 2013, Little Brown and Company

The Goldfinch has met with great public acclaim and won the coveted Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2014. It is a 771-page novel that is a force to be reckoned with in its sweeping narrative that ranges from New York, to Las Vegas, and even takes a detour to Amsterdam for its action-packed culmination. Tartt has indepth descriptions, incorporates beautiful prose and draws the reader in with her tale of Theo Decker and his misadventures around the globe.

But did I like the book? Well, that is a harder question to answer.

The plot of the book is interesting. At 13, Theo has begun to hang out with an undesirable crowd. He gets in trouble at school and has to face his teacher with his mother in tow. Before they get to school, they take refuge from the rain in an art gallery where the world famous "Goldfinch" painting is on display. As they have time, Theo's mother insists on seeing it. This twist of fate lands Theo on a turbulent path which it seems he will never shake.

A bomb explodes, killing many people, including Theo's mother. Theo's father had abandoned the family a year before, effectively leaving young Theo an orphan. In desperation, he reaches out to wealthy family friends, who take him in. Life could have seen an upswing, but Theo's father materializes and drags him to Las Vegas to a life of drinking, drugs and a decided lack of parenting.

What polarizes Theo in his drama is the "Goldfinch". In the aftermath of the bomb, he steals the painting and carries it with him. He becomes its protector, even as it is a noose around his neck. It is a stolen possession after all and the authorities want it back.

The story moves back to New York, but I was already struggling at this point. For every new twist, Tartt goes into incredible detail. She expounds on Theo and his friend Boris' drug trips. When Theo moves back to New York and struggles with direction, we get pages of his struggles. I get that he is an addict suffering from PTSD, but I stopped caring about poor Theo's welfare when he walked for blocks and blocks navel-gazing. Every scene had so much detail and, dare I say, it became boring.

But it won the Pulitzer Prize, I hear you say. Yes, it did. And Tartt is a great writer. I don't think I could write better than her by half. But I just wish someone had edited her by half! Or at least a quarter. The book was good, but lost me in its excessive descriptions.

And the ending? I won't spoil it, as I'm sure some of you will read it based on the merits it has won on so many fronts alone, but I did not feel it at all. It didn't gel with the previous flow. I didn't believe Theo in his wrap-up. And as much as I liked her work too, it reminded me of an Ayn Rand diatribe that went on too long.

Kind of like this book review? Yes well, I won't make any money for my opinion today, but that is my two cents worth regardless.

Sorry Donna; good writing, but too long.


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