Monday, August 11, 2014

All Of The Fuss Over The Goldfinch

Goldfinch filching seeds from a dwarf sunflower, Pittsburgh, PA, July 2014

Early this summer I bought and immediately read Donna Tartt's novel, "The Goldfinch".  At the time someone asked me what I thought of it and I said that the first third of the book is as good as anything that has ever been written, by anyone, anywhere.  I still stand by that statement.  Of course, this means that the last two-thirds of the book is something other than that, and it is.  The writing is still compelling, but since the character of Theo, from whom the reader gets the story, becomes something of a boozy drug addict, this is the lens through which we have to navigate his world.  Tartt does a brilliant job of rendering the self destructive tendencies and half lies and full out lies that junkies tell themselves and everybody else.  So what's the problem here?  My problem is solely my problem and that is that I want to be able to like Theo more than I do by the end of the book.  I felt such empathy for him at the beginning of the book, but that got taken from me as I continued reading.  I wanted so much for him to be a hero, to somehow triumph, to be magical.  But instead he was just a person, not so different from anyone else, slogging through their existence.  Life happens all around him, sometimes to him directly, other times tangentially.  Theo and his narrative do go off the rails by the end of the book, but I think that at this point that had to happen.  Everything was leading to this fevered climax, and fate would not be denied.
There are more opinions on this book than any other I've seen in a long, long time.  I would recommend it, if for no other reason so that you can either say it's brilliant!  Or like Dorothy Parker*, you chuck it across the room.
*Dorothy Parker is dead and, to the best of my knowledge, has not read or reviewed "The Goldfinch".

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