Monday, March 3, 2014

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

I'll begin with the fact that this novel has been critically acclaimed for the short while that it has been out (it was first published in Dutch and was wildly praised). It's been on every "best seller" list since its publication. Before I picked it up (downloaded it to my Kindle), I read a few reviews and many readers rave about it's "brutal honesty", "coming-of-age themes" and "realistic, beautiful characterization." I wouldn't disagree with any of those comments. 

But, will that lead the majority of bourgeois readers (all 5 of you) to read it? Is it worth the time it takes to read 784 pages? Yes, my friends, it's 784 pages. I have been reading it on and off for 3 months. 

That begs the question of why on and off? For me, first, it was the story line itself. A young boy lives through a terrible tragedy and his life is changed forever…he is alone and floundering first in New York and then Las Vegas (of all places) and then back to New York. Many drugs and survival-type friendships ensue with a few (very few) authentically loving relationships thrown in. I wish I were the type of person who just revels in the artistic amazingness of these realistic story lines but mostly, I feel myself becoming very sad and I can't quite pull myself out of the story enough to be a good wife and mom even when I'm not reading. I was riveted by Tartt's writing and found myself staying awake far too late to be of any use to anyone - so that's a positive for the novel if you don't have anything else to do in your day. I actually made myself step away from the novel for a bit. [Ironically, I read The Fault in Our Stars instead. Tragic bildungsroman (fancy word for "coming of age stories") seem to be filling all the popular lists these days.] 

This is an idea packed novel. Simply the amount of words was stunning - but I was irritated after a while with what seemed like the author's way of throwing obscure vocabulary in for what started to seem like a "look how smart I am" narcissism. Even if I knew the meaning of the words, I was irritated that she didn't choose something that didn't break up the flow of ideas. This is totally a personal preference and probably just means she is smarter and better read than me so these words are a part of her normal life. But, if I hadn't been using a tablet to read - and the handy immediate dictionary - I would have been bugged. I felt as though it even took away from the novel's symbolism.
The book is also a slow read.  Tartt references the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series in this book and if you enjoyed the pacing of these books - nothing in the story line but the actual tempo of the books-  you'll like Tartt's style. 

On that note, it seems that Tartt's first novel, The Secret History (1992) was more of a thriller and the plot seems interesting so I'll probably give that a go. 

 Donna Tartt

I am excited to try and see the painting around which the story revolves - it's almost a character in itself - and it's currently on display at the The Frick in New York City: 

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