Friday, September 25, 2015

The GoldfinchThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a big thick book with excellent character development and quirky plot. There were times when I thought it was wonderful and couldn't stop reading, and other times when I found it annoying and over-done.

The story follows Theo Decker from the age of 13 until his early adulthood. He is dealt a rotten hand when his mother is killed and he is left to his own devices for survival and maturation in New York. Others have noted the resemblance of this work to Dickens' bildungsroman David Copperfield, and indeed, Donna Tartt is masterful at sentence construction, depiction of mood and description of characters, very much like Charles Dickens. Of course she spent 10 years on this opus-- an average of four days per page-- so, I guess it should be crafted well.

Tartt is best when educating the reader, from art history, furniture refurbishing, and even illicit drug use. She is a wealth of information, both useful and not. Tartt is also surprisingly adept at describing the moods and motivations of adolescent males. Odd.

Actually, I found this novel more closely akin to Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage: the pained existentialism, the reckless lifestyles, longing for love, the struggle for meaning.  Maugham, however, wrote a semi-autobiographical work and it seemed more realistic and pertinent where The Goldfinch is fantastical in most plot twists.

Certainly, I can see why The Goldfinch is acclaimed. The writing is smooth as butter and the story is compelling, although it devolved into a Robert Ludlum-esque thriller in the final 150 pages, which I found mildly annoying.

Read the book. Better, read Of Human Bondage.

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