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The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt


You see those accolades pasted all over the cover of this book?

"Heart-rending"
"Superb"
"A masterpiece"

Do you see those? DO YOU?! They are liars.

Vogue lied.
The Times lied.
Daily Mail lied (no surprise there tbh).

Here's the thing, I have never, in all my six years of blogging, bashed a book in this space. I write reviews and roundups every now and then, and I make it a point to share the stories I love so other people can give them a try. However, at the end of 2017, I made one single 2018 resolution: to finish this book.

I thought, hey, let's keep it simple this year - you should finally finish that book that gets the highest of praises that's been sitting on your nightstand for the past year and a half. Well, there was a reason it had been sitting on my nightstand for the past year and a half at the time: because the narrative was dragging. I know some books take a few chapters to really get going, and since the book was almost 800 pages, I accepted the fact that it might take even longer for the plot to pick up, but it never really did. I forced myself to read the whole thing since I made the commitment, and for that reason I've decided to share my final thoughts here.

Note: I took a good 3-4 months to chew it over and make sure my review wasn't too hasty.

This book was the definition of a slow burner. I have no issue with an author taking his/her time with the story. In fact, I usually love it because the emotional payoff is better at the end. The problem with The Goldfinch was that it was full of hundreds and hundreds of pages of fluffy details that were irrelevant to the narrative. I'm all about filtering the fluff, so I'd normally flip through those pages and jump back in when the plotline continues, but that wasn't possible with The Goldfinch. The tangents were so deeply woven into each paragraph that I'd read 50+ pages and no real action had occurred.

There is a silver lining, though. Tartt's writing is stunning. The way she paints the picture with her words is a true work of art. These minute details are her brushstrokes, and the segues are definitely the signature of her craft. I just didn't need 400 pages worth of brushstrokes. In my opinion, it doesn't take all that to tell a good story.

I have a theory: Donna Tartt is so highly revered in the literary world that her editor probably didn't want to keep it real and cut through the excess. Once you start winning awards for your work, people (read: publishers) bend over backwards to keep you happy, which - in turn - keeps their pockets happy.

The reviews on Goodreads are mostly positive. Out of half a million reviews, The Goldfinsh hovers at almost 4/5 stars, which is quite impressive. Many of the more critical opinions share my viewpoint, which makes me feel like less of a Liberal Arts fraud.

The moral of the story, for me, was to never suffer through titles that are not enjoyable, even if I did make it my New Year's resolution.

/end rant


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Comments

  1. I actually really, really loved The Goldfinch! I personally enjoyed the length, I think because I really enjoyed Donna Tartt's writing style. I, too, wondered whether all that stuff in between was necessary, and finally decided that, for me, all that in between made the story more poignant because it was reflective of real life. For me, real life is made of these in between moments. You don't know what the bigger picture of your life is until you look back on it. Many things pass you by, some big, some small. At least, in my opinion.

    But I also understand the people who didn't find all that in between necessary. There were points in the novel I definitely wondered what the heck was going on, what the main conflict was, where it was all leading to, what was the point, and what happened to The Goldfinch painting. If I didn't love Donna Tartt's writing style so much (which is simply a matter of personal taste), I don't know if I would have made it through the novel. (I probably would have, since I'm terrible at dropping books, even ones I don't enjoy, but it would have taken me foreverr.) -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey's

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    Replies
    1. You share many of the same sentiments as all the rave reviews on Goodreads, and I soooo wanted to feel that way. I enjoyed Tartt's writing, I really did, but I didn't need as much detail as she provided, at least not at every single turn.

      I've come to realize that I'm more concerned about a well-woven plot line instead of all the nuances that distinguish a regular novel from a piece of literary fiction. That being said, there are many literary fiction titles out there that have more emphasis on the action than on the character reflections, so I am officially on the hunt.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Audrey! ❤️📚

      Delete
  2. I decided last year that if I'm not drawn in and held hostage within the first few chapters, I'm not finishing the book. I feel it's a complete disservice to me to push through a book that I'm not genuinely interested in.

    Time is too precious to waste on books that you don't love, just to say you finished them.

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