Notes on The Goldfinch

I'm going to preface this post by admitting that this is basically just a hodgepodge of notes on The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt so that I have something to refer back to before book club in a few weeks. Also, I must admit that some of the below points came to fruition after talking about the book with my husband, who definitely knows his shit (none of these are his thoughts, though, just things we both agreed on). Everything that could be interpreted as a spoiler will be in blocks of italics.

- Initially I was a little daunted by the size of the book, at nearly 800 pages. It in fact, it ended up being a fairly "quick" read for me, taking just shy of two weeks (last summer I would have pounded it out in a week). 
- This book almost made the Trifecta of Literary Merit requirements for me- writing, characters, and plot. Here's why:
- Writing: the writing was superb, despite a few overused metaphors here and there. Her attention to detail and ability to describe a scene are impressive and I never felt bored. The dialogue was natural, the transitions flowed, and the text never felt forced.
- Characters: For the most part I thought the characters were developed well. Theo's father was not, but this was because he really wasn't a direct influence in his son's life, therefore the lack of depth mirrored the actual flatness of his presence. Pippa was not either, which really bothered me. I know she was supposed to be this elusive, mysterious little waif, but the fact that Theo was so enthralled with her and didn't seem to have any substantial reasons for being so made the attraction far-fetched. There needed to be more.
- Plot: Tartt's storytelling abilities are amazing- this was what we call "crafted" (it did take her eleven years, after all, so it better appear this way). I did have a problem with some of the coincidences, though. First of all, Theo's dad dying at the point in which he did was just an easy, lazy way out on Tartt's end. Running into Boris towards the end was also just too coincidental- somehow he just manages to bump into him at the moment he needs to in an area he never frequents? The ending was also a tiny bit problematic for me in Amsterdam. Boris appears just as Theo becomes absolutely frantic over his missing passport? Oh, and with a huge chunk of change that Boris can just take back the United States and use to placate everyone he's wronged without any legal repercussions? There was also some discrepancies in terms of timing. The present must be told in the future, because of the mention of iPods and iPhones in the past story segments, which are supposed to be fourteen years old. Those devices are newer than that! 
- I know some people hate the Vegas section (just read the Amazon reviews!), but I thought it read quickly and was necessary to develop the relationship between Theo and Boris and to demonstrate how directionless Theo's adolescence was.
- Hobie reminds me of Hagrid and I love them both
- I'm glad Popper stuck around. 
- I remember looking at the painting of The Goldfinch before I started reading and thinking how uninspiring it was. But, as I read (including, begrudgingly, the ending pages, which I actually thought was a little bit of a sentimental eye-roll inducing brain-dump on Theo and Tartt's part) I had to admit that that's why art is so awesome- it affects everyone differently. The connection one person has with a creative piece, whether a poem, a painting, a sculpture, or a song, is truly personal and subjective. And the question of whether or not it's acceptable to idolize objects is also an interesting thought to ponder.
- I am such a sucker for a literary Bildungsroman.
- This is an interesting article on the critical reception.
- I do think that this is a literary novel that is actually accessible for "the masses." It moves at a steady clip, can be interpreted at different levels, and is entertaining. I think it's also a book that people feel proud of reading- it's long, a Pulitzer winner, and is about the art world. Someone who maybe reads more James Patterson than Jeffrey Eugenides could get through this and feel proud of themselves while discussing it at a cocktail party. I think that's a good thing.

I definitely recommend it! 

1 comment:

  1. I also loved it - as I mentioned, it's a 800-pager that 'feels like' 350 pages. I actually really liked the Vegas bits - Tartt's sense of place there was magnificent.