Review (Part II) – The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

I finally finished The Goldfinch, so here is the promised Review – Part 2 (see Part 1 HERE).

To get right to the point: yes, it is a book worth reading. Which is saying something, given the length and the parts that drag. That said, I still don’t know it won the Pulitzer.

In the book’s second half, the orphan train wreck morphs into a bit of an Oceans 11/Italian Job, of which the titular Goldfinch is the lynchpin. And I’ll just leave the plot summary at that, since you can find book reports all over the internet, and besides, none of that is what the book is really “about,” not the trainwreck, not the Italian job. The book is about Theo, and what those events do to him. The book is about losing what you love, and loving what you cannot have. The books is about life, and beauty, and God, and chance, and choices. It’s about…well, I’ll just let Theo sum it up for you:

That life – whatever else it is – is short. That fate is cruel but maybe not random. That Nature (meaning Death) always wins but that doesn’t mean we have to bow and grovel to it. That maybe if we’re not always so glad to be here, it’s our task to immerse ourselves anyway: wade straight through it, right through the cesspool, while keeping eyes and hearts open.

Most of my critiques from Review – Part 1 still stands. Though the prose is nice, it never really reaches the transcendence it aims for. There are still clunky metaphors. There is an awful lot of high brow/boarding school elitism that would go down better if Tartt trimmed it a bit – or maybe deflated the balloon from time to time. Sometimes it feels like you are being beaten over the head with class references. And the long passages about furniture and drugs and whatnot just go on and on.

But there is a joyful sadness and a melancholy tenderness in it too. It says that, while you can’t choose what you love, you can choose to love it well. That even if life is short, the beauty you create and care for can outlive you. That “it is a glory and a privilege to love what Death doesn’t touch.” That we may die, but love and beauty live on.

So, yes, read this book. Just be patient with it.


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