“The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt


I was probably going to skip The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt until it was picked both by one of my book groups as well as The Morning News Tournament of Books. I tried for a library copy, but the queue was too long, so I bought it in hardcover. When I hefted it, I wondered if perhaps it would be better on an E-reader, though I don’t like reading books in E. When I opened it, and saw the bottom margins of about 1/2 inch, I realized an E version would seem endless.

My husband and I compared the weight and page format to The Son, which I’d just finished, and had thought was a decent doorstop at 500+ pages. G. Grod thought The Goldfinch was like a 1000 page book crammed into 770 pages. After reading it, I agree. There’s more of this book than there needs to be, whether it’s 1000 pages crammed into 770, or 770 that should have been edited down to 500.

I read it at a decent clip. I was engaged with the story of Theo Decker, a teen boy who suffers early tragedy and goes on to have a life of intrigue involving a famous work of art. At about page 500 or so, reading about a ditsy character named Kitsey, it struck me that, hey, this reminds me of David Copperfield, which I’ve been reading this winter along with some friends via New Century Reading. I googled Goldfinch and David Copperfield. Lo and behold EVERY SINGLE REVIEW of Goldfinch mentioned Dickens and DC. It took me 500 pages to recognize parallels to a famous book I just happened to be reading simultaneously. Apparently, I’m not as clever as I’d like to think I am.

Like David Copperfield, the book really picks up about 500 pages in, especially when one vibrant character returns to the page. As in DC, the main character is not the draw. It’s the complex and fascinating ones who orbit him. If you like a long, immersive read with scores of characters and elements from many genres–mystery, history, romance, thriller, coming of age–then this is a great book for you.

If Dickens’ and other Victorians bored you, then this one probably will, too. If you read the commentary on the book at the Tournament of Books, there were many for and against the book. My book group was not similarly split; to a person we read to the end and enjoyed it.

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