Finished reading Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch yesterday, then spent the last 24 hours mulling it over. Conclusion (which shouldn’t be that surprising if you’ve talked to me at all in the past couple weeks): I hated it. I can’t remember the last time I was this relieved that I was done reading something. I powered through for a book club meeting I didn’t even end up attending.
Below is the review I wrote on Goodreads. (Note: if YOU liked it, awesome. There are obviously people out there who do. We will just have to agree to disagree.)
I’ve fallen into the camp that hated this book. For two weeks, I’ve pushed forward with it, even though I realized early on that I wasn’t enjoying myself and that wasn’t likely to change.
I was explaining the novel to a friend, which made me realize the concept for greatness exists. Theo Decker is in over his head as he tries to navigate the world after his mother’s death in a terrorist attack, leading him from New York to Las Vegas to Amsterdam. At the heart of this tale is a painting, a masterwork by all accounts.
But the book was overwrought and overwritten (especially the last dozen pages or so, in which author Donna Tartt, through Decker, waxes philosophical on the meaning of art and life and love). The characters and settings were all stereotypes: the angelic mother, the drunkard father, the drunkard father’s skanky girlfriend, the Upper East side family, the Russian no-good best friend. The plot itself read like A Series of Unfortunate Events, but was far less entertaining.
I get it — this is Donna Tartt’s opus, the novel that she has spent years on. To some, this work was worthy of its Pulitzer. To me, it was a meandering tale that petered out hundreds of pages in, with hundreds of pages left to go.
The result: if I ever see Carel Fabritius’s The Goldfinch in real life, I probably won’t appreciate it as much as I should. That damn book. That damn painting.
I can’t deny that there weren’t moments of literary brilliance in Goldfinch; that’s why I gave it two stars instead of one. I think some good editing would have made this a much better told story. Instead, those moments, much like Decker himself in the book, get lost in the mess.