Reviews

Review (Part I): The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

So I’m halfway through The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. And since it will probably be another few weeks till I can get it finished, I thought I’d post a mid-point sorta-review.

  • Thumbnail plot sketch: boy loses family and is uprooted. Search for identity and belonging. Sort of a modern day orphan train story. Also, boy accidentally(?) steals painting (the titular Goldfinch), can’t find the right time to return it. Mostly the painting is in the far background for the first half, but it is gaining more prominence. I expect it to be a key piece late, and will be kinda pissed if it’s just a MacGuffin.
  • I have no idea how this book won the Pulitzer prize. Not that it’s bad, really, but honestly I was expecting more. The writing isn’t beautiful. The story isn’t compelling. The characters that aren’t Theo (the protagonist) are flat. There are easy clichés and lazy metaphors. And it takes Ms. Tartt forever to say anything. Which is why I’m a few weeks in and only halfway through the book.
  • That said, it is still interesting, but more because of all that Theo goes through. It’s a bit like watching a disaster movie. An orphan train wreck, as it were.
  • There is something very weird going on with the when of this novel. Though it’s not sci-fi, it seems to be set in some alternate universe. But it’s not just the big events (a terrorist bombing at the Met serves as the key early plot device) that are out of place. Little details, like certain technologies being invented/introduced out of order, the drinking age being different, that sort of thing. Honestly, I think this is intentional. The author goes into great detail describing a Rembrandt painting (The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp) where details are intentionally “off” in order to attract your attention. But I can’t see the purpose in the “off” details in The Goldfinch, at least not yet. Perhaps by the end of the book, I’ll feel differently. Maybe there is a grand theme she is teasing out. But right now, it is just irritating.

All that said, the book is good enough to keep reading. So that’s the plan for me. In a few weeks, I should have Review – Part II done, and I’ll let you know if the book was worth the time investment.

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