“Only here’s what I really, really want someone to explain to me. What if one happens to be possessed of a heart that can’t be trusted–? What if the heart, for its own unfathomable reasons, leads one willfully and in a cloud of unspeakable radiance away from health, domesticity, civic responsibility and strong social connections and all the blandly-held common virtues and instead straight toward a beautiful flare of ruin, self-immolation, disaster?…If your deepest self is singing and coaxing you straight toward the bonfire, is it better to turn away? Stop your ears with wax? Ignore all the perverse glory your heart is screaming at you? Set yourself on the course that will lead you dutifully towards the norm, reasonable hours and regular medical check-ups, stable relationships and steady career advancement the New York Times and brunch on Sunday, all with the promise of being somehow a better person? Or…is it better to throw yourself head first and laughing into the holy rage calling your name?”
I finished it! I feel so accomplished. Wow wow wow, this book was a masterpiece! So good. 4.5 read for sure, with just a few very minor hangups.
I’m in love with this book 😍 It is such a rich, luxurious, electric, rewarding novel to read. I originally never knew much about this book, found it for $5 at Barnes and Noble, and started it right away. I read about 60 pages and set it aside, because, while I was intrigued, I was itching for a faster read at the time. I recently picked it back up since I heard that a movie is coming out for it soon and I am SO glad I did. This time, I could not put it down!
This book is LONG. A little bit too long, if you ask me and some of the story’s momentum gets slogged down by unnecessary details, rants, exposition, and wandering narrative. That is my only qualm with this book. And really, after finishing it, I do see how even the slower, more sluggish parts of the book were right for the story. They fit the feeling and the atmosphere, and Theo’s state of mind at the time. It was a bit much, but ultimately it worked for the story as a whole.
This book is truly an epic, far-reaching, masterful work that touches on so so many different topics. Such a gem! I was not expecting the weight and gravity of it, honestly. I expected it to be a bit of a long-winded thriller, maybe some action and a touch of mystery, but nothing too unique or moving. Basically, I thought it’d be some heist novel or maybe something akin to The DaVinci Code (without the biblical significance). But I was wrong!! The Goldfinch was an unexpected saga following Theodore Decker from when tragedy strikes him at the age of 14 through to when he finally begins to resolve some of it at around the age of 25. Theo’s journey is so intimate, as we the readers are facing every struggle and depressed thought right along with him. There are some passages that are pure stream-of-consciousness that I thought were amazing. The story was so much more insightful and reflective than I thought it would be.
Something that really came as a pleasant surprise was the sheer scope in which Theo, and therefore Tartt, began to study humanity. His own character’s self-analysis became the lense with which he began to view the world and human interaction/nature in general. There was a fantastic dollop of existential contemplation throughout the book and young Theo’s life, which capped off in a one of the most brilliant nihilistic endings I have read in modern literature. The pain and beauty of life is captured so wonderfully here. Theo, Boris, Pippa, and Hobie all have distinct and passionate voices that bring to light individual pieces of life unique to their own person. As a whole, the book does an amazing job of giving the reader a simultaneous sense of dread and hope. I cannot express enough how well it was done. And it was all the better, because I was absolutely not expecting that sort of edge to the story.
As mentioned, the characters were perfect here. Without the likes of Boris and Hobie and Mrs. Barbour (and Popchik) especially, The Goldfinch would not be anywhere near as successful. This is most definitely a character driven story and Tartt has an incredible knack for bringing to life even the most minor of characters. She gives them each such a unique and powerful voice, a rich history, and brimming personality that they feel so real as you are reading about them. They added such life to the story and really made it all that more special. And, sidenote, but I ADORED the Russian flare and accuracy that Boris and his kin brought to the book. Ugh! Love me some Russian culture.
And of course, the book wouldn’t have been half as good without the brilliant writing. Again, I was not expecting too much from it going in. I thought the writing would be adequate, surface level thriller stuff. Sort of a “get the job done” kind of feel to it, while the reader was distracted by the plot. So far from the truth! This review should honestly just be me saying, “I was wrong about everything!” The writing was amazing. Tartt has a great style, kind of subtle and constantly moving, but with powerful bits and pieces slipped in where you least expect them. Parts were very stream-of-consciousness, as I said. Parts were extremely dialogue heavy, feeling so authentic. And parts were pages-long metaphors contemplating the meaning of life. It was all very engrossing. It has to be for a nearly 800 page book, I guess! I was not bored. I was compelled the whole time to keep reading and find out what was going to happen or where Theo was headed. The weight of the painting throughout the book was great, because, like Theo’s mother, it was a haunting and almost ominous presence. Just when things seemed ok or you forgot it was there, it would creep back into the picture. Tartt wields her craft beautifully here. The pacing is, for the most part, on point, the descriptions are lush. The atmosphere is fantastic! Her use of detail gives the book an even bigger sense of reality. You just feel like you are living it. Gorgeous, gorgeous writing.
I loved the ending! I loved how perfectly meaningless-yet-full-of-meaning it was. It truly spoke to me. It was one of those makes your heart start pounding and your stomach clench moments where the words on the page just connect with you so strongly. I loved how abrupt it was. I loved how real it seemed. And Hobie’s speech!!! Bellissimo. I am so so glad I picked this one back up.