To understand the world at all, sometimes you could only focus on a tiny bit of it, look very hard at what was close to hand and make it stand in for the whole.
Title: The Goldfinch
Author: Donna Tartt
First Published: 2013
My Rating: 2 of 5 stars (average rating on Goodreads: 3:93)
I would recommend this book to: Charles Dickens fans
The Beginning: While I was still in Amsterdam, I dreamed about my mother for the first time in years.
I feel ambivalent about The Goldfinch. In many ways, it’s a very good story with unique characters. It was just so damned boring. Yes, there were a few pages that kept me on the edge of my seat, but those pages were the exception to the rule.
I think my main problem was Donna Tartt’s writing. I wouldn’t say she’s a bad writer, but she could have used a brutal editor, forcing her to kill her darlings. Her many, many darlings. She certainly had the “show me, don’t tell me” part down. She just kept showing and showing up to the point where I wanted to scream. I actually did scream at one point. Example: Our protagonist is depressed. And we follow him being depressed at home, at school, during dinner, and when he goes to sleep. I’m not that stupid, I get it that he’s depressed, I understand that it’s all the time, I don’t have to hear about every single moment he’s depressed, I can fill in the blanks myself – actually I LIKE filling in the blanks. And it was like this with everything. His drug abuse, his friendships, his attitude towards school, the books he read, the food he eats, the furniture he repairs. No wonder the book is 864 pages long! IMO, this story should only have spread out over 400 pages. That leaves more than 400 pages of filling. If the writing had been beautiful or amazing, I would have felt differently. That just wasn’t the case. Tartt’s writing isn’t bad, but it’s nothing special.
The reading experience felt very similar to reading Charles Dickens: absolutely brilliant stories, great creativity, but too many details. It feels like you’re miles ahead of the author, like the author is afraid you don’t get it unless (s)he explains it over and over again. The funny thing is, that I see now that many reviews refer to Tartt as Dickensian – but in a good way. I can totally see what they mean; to me it’s just not a good thing.
Another thing that bothered me was our protagonist. I didn’t really like him that much. Not that I disliked him, I just didn’t really care about him. No, that’s not true, I liked him as a kid, but when he grew up, I completely lost interest in him. He was just so negative and stupid that I stopped caring about what happened to him. I like my characters passionate and ambitious, trying to achieve or accomplish something. Not numb on drugs. He was just so passive, I wanted to slap him.
And then there’s the painting. Pretty vital and symbolic red thread throughout the story. But I couldn’t care less about it.