Thursday, 15 May 2014

A Few Thoughts on The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

'He was a planet without an atmosphere.'

I don't want to review The Goldfinch because I barely have any coherent thoughts concerning it but, if you don't mind, I would like to share some of those incoherent thoughts now that I've finally had some. I finished it this week (it took me about a week and half to read), and I actually feel pretty wiped out. I don't know if anyone else has had that reaction, but I feel like this book has taken it out of me a bit. I can't even decide if I enjoyed it. Mostly upon finishing it, my thoughts went a little like this: 'ok...right'. That is what I'm dealing with right now. A complete mind blank.

'A great sorrow, and that I am only beginning to understand: we don't get to choose our own hearts...We don't get to choose the people we are.'

This was my first foray into Donna Tartt's writing (I'd love to know how this compares to her previous novels if any of you have read them), and I have to say, I was impressed. Tartt must be a terrifyingly brilliant woman. The layers of meaning, the allusions and the references to so many elements of popular culture, non-popular culture, history, art, literature, are pretty mind blowing. This is a big book with so much in it (perhaps too much?) that at times I had to take a minute to process. 

'For humans - trapped in biology - there was no mercy: we lived a while, we fussed around for a bit and died, we rotted in the ground like garbage. Time destroyed us all soon enough.'

Personally, I found it all a little to cloying and neat. I mean, good heavens did Theo have a mightily shit time of it, but still, something stuck in my throat as I was reading it. Mostly I just thought Theo was an ass. In fact, I don't think a single character in the novel felt likeable. Hobie, maybe. I know likeable characters aren't necessarily the goal but I quite like to be able to empathise with them at least slightly. Here, there was nothing but sarcastic comments running through my head. Particularly around the drug use. I'm not one to get high and mighty about things like that but I have to say it does bore me in books.

'Quickly I slid it out, and almost immediatley its glow enveloped me, something almost musical , an internal sweetness that was inexplicable beyond a deep, blood-rocking harmony of rightness, the way your hear beat slow and sure when you were with a person you felt safe with and loved.'

But then there's Tartt's writing. Even with my disappoint with the story, I keep coming back to her writing. I've added a few quotes into this post because I think they say enough about the novel as a whole to make sense of the fact that I like and dislike this novel in equal measure.

'And as much as I'd like to belive there's a truth beyond illusion, I've come to believe that there's no truth beyond illusion. Because, between 'reality' on the one hand, and the point where the mind strikes reality, there's a middle zone, a rainbow edge where beauty comes into being, where two very difference surfaces mingle and blur to provide what life does not: and this is the space where all art exists, and all magic.'

To try and wrap up my own thoughts I think I can conclude the following: I did not like The Goldfinch. I liked what it was trying to say and I loved Tartt's beautiful way with words. This outweighs my dislike of the general being of the thing. But nevertheless, I still come away from it feeling cheated and slightly sickened. Maybe that's a strong reaction, and that's exactly why I cannot review this novel and can only merely attempt to somehow voice my reaction to it. I've probably not even done that. 

Have you read The Goldfinch? Did your reaction differ from mine?



  1. I checked this one out from the library but never read it. I tried to read The Little Friend once but couldn't get through it - just don't think Tartt is for me....

    And I like this review a lot, it's good sometimes to read someone's honest thoughts after finishing a book, the structure of reviews can be a bit confining sometimes.

  2. Howwwwwww interesting! I love this way of reviewing a book, like 'I had FEELINGS and they all contradict each other and blarrrrrgh' because sometimes that's how you feel after a book! I did love this so much, mainly for what it had to say about grief at a time when I needed that, but I don't think I hated any of the characters, except maybe Theo's dad- you're right, none of them were exactly likeable, but I felt like the good in them outweighed the bad.

    I've read Tarrt's other books (pre blogging, so the memories are hazy) and they ever both books I couldn't put down and I looooved her writing so much. I feel like she can tell a story AND tell it in beautiful sentences and that makes her awesome for me.

  3. I like The Goldfinch and I'm glad I read it, but there were aspects of it that didn't sit well with me. I thought it was way too long (and I definitely didn't like the preachy ending), and I also thought there were way too many Harry Potter references (and I say this as a Harry Potter fan). Theo was difficult to assess. I liked him, mostly, but something seemed "off" about the way Tartt portrayed him. He was supposed to be a post-millennium kid and yet he burned CDs (for example) as though everyone his age does that sort of thing. The parts of the novel I liked the best were the ones with Hobie and Boris.

  4. I read The Secret History last year, and it sounds as though it's a very similar style to this one. I didn't like any of the characters either and it had a peculiar way of making me feel rather stupid. So many allusions to Latin and philosophy and historical democrats...

    I liked it (I think) and I have a signed copy of The Goldfinch to read, but it looks so intimidating!

  5. I don't think this is the book for me -- especially considering the heft of it. Not that I don't like chunksters, but I don't think this one is going to do it. Thanks for being so honest!

  6. I had a strange reaction to this one as well. I didn't really like the story, though I loved how much it reminded me of Great Expectations. I was fascinated by some of the characters, then it would loose me for 100 pages. Like you, in the end, it was the writing that stood out to me.

  7. It seems to be quite similar to The Secret History, it seems - I didn't find any "likeable" characters from this one either. I don't mind dislikeable characters though (maybe I'm quite dislikeable person myself), and Tartt writes in the way that it's interesting to see them interact and go downhill. I will definitely give this one a go as well, but I really liked (as others do) what you write in your review - it is clear that even though it's not a book for you, it probably is a book for me :)

  8. Phew - someone else who's not raving about this book.
    I adored the start - completely mesmerised by the writing, the trauma, the grief - it was heart in my mouth stuff, but then I got bored/annoyed with all the coincidences that helped Tartt transition her characters.
    Unlike Melissa, when I got lost, I stayed lost.
    Thanks for the honest review.


© Lit Nerd. All rights reserved.
Blogger Templates by pipdig