Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Review: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (DNF)

Book cover of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
I feel like this review isn't going to go well... in defence, I spent A MONTH OF MY LIFE on The Goldfinch and was still only two third of the way through, so I feel reasonably justified in drawing a line under it.

Plot summary: Aged thirteen, Theo Decker, son of a devoted mother and a reckless, largely absent father, miraculously survives an accident that otherwise tears his life apart. Alone and rudderless in New York, he is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. He is bewildered by his new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, tormented by an unbearable longing for his mother, and down the years he clings to the thing that most reminds him of her: a small, strangely captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the criminal underworld.

As he grows up, Theo learns to glide between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love - and his talisman, the painting, places him at the centre of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle. 

I loved The Secret History - the rambling yet beautiful prose, the odd tangents into classical mythology, the unlikeable but fascinating characters... it just worked perfectly and I was hooked. No wonder then that I was so excited about The Goldfinch that my partner's parents bought me a signed copy for Christmas last year. It's beautiful - a huge hardback with a little flap instead the cover that hides a golfinch, and a lovely looping signature. Bliss.

Except not. There's no getting around the fact that I just didn't like this book and I feel hugely let down by it. I literally spent a month trying to read it (without even reading another book alongside) and I just couldn't bear it anymore. I hate saying this because I know how much of a philistine I sound, but it's boring.

I don't mind books where nothing happens. I'm quite happy to be swayed by lovely prose and interesting characters, but 'slow' books are not necessarily good just because they happen to be literary. I dreaded picking up The Goldfinch and traipsing through page after page of irritating domesticity.

That's the key point, I think - it's far too domestic, much more so than The Secret History. It's about parents and divorce, with very little about the goldfinch portrait until roughly halfway through the book. Which is long, by the way. It starts out well but the second quarter is just the main character sulking around Vegas with his father and stepmother. For a boy with so many alcohol and drug dependency issues, he's surprisingly uninteresting and a cliche.

I liked Hobie and his shop - the one rounded and believable character. Those small parts gave off a lovely atmosphere and I could happily have jumped into the book and lived in that antiques workshop. In a way though, it just made me sigh all the more when we were dragged back to follow what's-his-face (Theo?) in Vegas.

I didn't finish this book, so maybe it gets better. I've read a lot of reviews of people that read the whole thing in a few days because they were so enthralled, and no doubt they'll shake their heads and mumble about how I didn't 'get it.' To be fair though; I didn't.

Read my review of A Secret History or read Laura's more positive review of The Goldfinch here.


  1. I have nominated you for the Liebster Awards - blogging awards given by bloggers to bloggers. Find info here: http://angrygreycatreads.com/2014/09/09/i-have-been-nominated-liebster-awards/ Have Fun!

  2. I'm sad to hear that you didn't like it! I haven't read it yet and was intrigued when I heard that it was about a stolen painting, but if nothing happens until halfway through the book... well no one's got the time for that!


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