Wow. That was a long book…
WARNING: SOME SPOILERS BELOW!
I just finished reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, and thought this would be the perfect opportunity to write my first blog book review. I have to preface this with the fact that I did “read” the book through Audible (the amazing Amazon audio-book app), and I do admit that reading and listening are two totally different experiences.
If you haven’t listened to an audio-book before, you may not understand the struggle: the reader may or may not narrate at the pace you enjoy, or they may not read the story how you imagine it should be read (you can actually change the pace if you like). These are things that make a number of audio-books difficult to slog through (in my opinion), including The Goldfinch. (However, KUDOS to the reader (David Pittu) of the audio-book version of The Goldfinch. I never thought one single person could create around twenty different voices, or that many Russian accents).
So back to The Goldfinch. What is it about and what rating would I give it?
The Goldfinch is a first-person narrative centering on teenage Theodore (Theo) Decker, who experiences the devastating loss of his mother to an explosion at an art gallery, a place both he and his mother were visiting. Theo and a young girl, Pippa, are among the only survivors of the bomb blast, along with the famous painting by Carel Fabritius, The Goldfinch, which happens to be safely tucked under the arms of an escaped Theo. Theo not only has to deal with the sudden and traumatic loss of his mother, but also comes to face the illegality of his action, both of which bring him into contact with a host of different characters: an antiques dealer and “uncle” of Pippa, Hobie, his childhood friend’s family and temporary caretakers, the Barbers, as well as his long-lost dad, his dad’s Blackjack dealer girlfriend, Xandra, and the most colorful character of all, Boris. Boris, a teenage Russian immigrant, helps to create some of the funniest action of the story by introducing Theo to a host of psychedelic drugs, and the life of petty thieving.
The book is split between Theo’s teenage years and the years of his young 20s, when he is an “established” antiques dealer who works with Hobie. The majority of Theo’s young adult story focuses on his less-than-reputable antiques’ dealings, and somewhat about his love-lorn feelings for Pippa, who survived the art gallery explosion with him. Without giving too much away, the issue of his stealing The Goldfinch painting comes back to haunt him, as well as the ever-hilarious Boris. What Donna Tartt does so well in The Goldfinch is character development. Characters like Theo, Boris, Hobie, and even Xandra, are so well-molded and shaped, you could swear that they are people that you know. Since it is a first-person narrative, the readers get to know Theo the best: his depression over losing his mother, his drug-induced adventures, the aftershocks of living through a bomb blast, and a variety of other emotions, such as whether he is deserving to have survived, when his mother did not.
I am giving The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt a 4 out of 5 stars, solely because the book feels like it is lacking in action (besides the very end). Tartt is perhaps one of the best current authors out there to produce such vivid and realistic scenes in a novel; however, this also makes for a very long, very dragged out, story line (the mass-market paperback is almost 1,000 pages). I can partly contribute this feeling to the audio-book version of the novel, seeing as many experienced readers can read faster than they can listen. Overall, I would recommend this book to more patient readers, who appreciate the minute details and want to get inside the protagonist’s head, rather than those who like books to place them on pins and needles.