Friday, July 4, 2014

Review: The Goldfinch

The GoldfinchThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I did not quite care for this book. I finished it through sheer force of will. Part of the reason I think I didn't like it is I didn't know what I was getting myself into. I had the impression it was more of a mystery based on the painting in question, rather than the sort of coming of age story it turned out to be. Don't get me wrong; I enjoy a good bildungsroman, but usually of the female persuasion. It also helps when reading a story of this length to actually like the protagonist. By the time he's an adult, I didn't like Theo.

Well, that's not entirely true. Within the first fifteen pages, I was bored with Theo; I have little patience for boys idolizing their mothers, living or dead. But moving on...

He keeps making poor decisions, and we just have to read along, letting it happen -- again and again and again and again. The entire novel is his downward hate spiral of self-loathing and guilt. It took me so long to finish this book because I would have to stop reading out of either frustration or boredom. Frustration because Theo continues to make the same mistakes again and again (and does not learn from them) and boredom because it's so fucking long.

I know long books. I majored in Victorian literature, for Christ's sake! But every one of Tartt's sections (and each chapter is divided into about five sections) is at least two pages longer than it needs to be. This book needs a good editor to show her where she's reached the peak of each section and to stop; instead Tartt keeps going, hitting us over the head with the non-stop descriptions and rambling sentence fragments.

I found the ending to be anti-climatic. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but this wasn't it. I guess seeing as how (read entire review on Goodreads to view spoiler) Moreover, the last "section" loses Theo's voice entirely and turns into what I can only assume is Tartt where she expounds needlessly on life, death, meaning, fate, yadda yadda yadda. I started skimming because it didn't seem relevant to the story at all, and I don't enjoy other people's moralizing.

I'm giving it two stars instead of one because I did feel compelled to finish it. I would give up, put the book down, then pick it back up again (days or weeks later) just to have stuff get interesting again. Sadly, those interesting bits were usually short-lived, but she did draw me in from time to time.

If you enjoyed this book, good for you, though I don't understand why. I will not be recommending it to anyone except people I feel need to be punished in a literary manner.
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