Book Review: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
by Donna Tartt
Little, Brown and Company, 2013
Opinions about this book divide. Opinions about divisions of this book divide. Some critics rave about its “art,” but other critics pan its far-fetched plotting and meandering narrative. The Goldfinch, it seems, leaves no room for middle ground.
Before I read this book, I spoke with many people about it. Their opinions, like those of the literary critics, fell at opposite, extreme ends of the spectrum. Some raved about how they couldn’t put it down, but others rolled their eyes and said, “I could not finish that awful book.”
When I read the opening chapters, I thought, “I have to go with the friends who say this is a great book.” I loved the child character, Theo Decker, and his strong-willed mother. The events of their life in New York City absorbed me, the idea of the painting intrigued me and I admired Tartt’s seamless storytelling.
Then I reached the part when Theo ends up in Vegas. The storytelling pace slowed, and the subject matter of Theo’s Vegas life did not appeal to me. For hundreds of pages (hundreds), Tartt describes the booze and drug escapades of Theo and his friend, Boris. I thought, “Okay, I’m not so crazy about this part, but maybe it will pick up later.”
My hopes raised when Theo returned to New York, but my optimism soon faded. The final part of Tartt’s book details a bleak, convoluted and, yes, far-fetched plot involving yet more booze, hard-core drug use and characters pivotal to the story that we don’t ever meet. I flagged reading Theo’s stream of consciousness diatribe of existential angst. By then I thought, “Okay, I’m starting to understand the people who couldn’t finish this book.”
Fittingly, my opinion about this book is divided. I loved the first several hundred pages; I endured the middle; I disliked, and actively resented, the end.
Would I recommend this book?
I recommend reading the opening sections and then stopping. After that, in your imagine, create your own ending for Theo and the painting.