Thursday, June 19, 2014
Review: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Little, Brown and Company
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
While I was still in Amsterdam, I dreamed about my mother for the first time in years. I'd been shut up in my hotel for more than a week, afraid to telephone anybody or go out; and my heart scrambled and floundered at even the most innocent noises: elevator bell, rattle of the minibar cart, even church clocks tolling the hour, de Westertoren, Krijtberg, a dark edge to the clangor, an inwrought fairy-tale sense of doom.
Quick nonspoilery summary:
When he was thirteen, Theo Decker survives an explosion that kills his mother. Afterward, he is cast adrift. I remember in the Tournament of Books forums, coming across the term WMFUN (white male f&ck up novel) to describe books about white males that are struggling to get their sh*t together. That is Theo. Even when he appears to have it together somewhat, he doesn't.
So, The Goldfinch is not a short novel. It might make a nice doorstop, if the mistreatment of books were your thing. And Tartt's writing style does not lend itself to quick reading. It is long and meandering. The first lines are a good example of this. The first sentence is relatively straightforward. The second sentence is not. Also, Theo is not exactly the everyman hero of your dreams. In fact he is pretty unlikable. Sure, I felt badly for him, but when life gave him lemons, he didn't make lemonade. He sprayed the juice in someone else's eye, then rubbed the leftover fruit on his own wounds. But yet I still found myself rooting for him. I wanted him to get the girl and hang the painting over their bed and live happily ever after even as I knew this was a fantasy.
This was my second Tartt novel, so I knew sort of what to expect. I think that The Secret History feels tighter, but I enjoyed The Goldfinch more. It was a long, slow read, however. I think that I easily could have set it aside and not picked it up again at almost any point.
If you liked The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, you might also like The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert or you could check out any of these other examples of the WMFUN: http://bookriot.com/2011/10/06/the-white-male-fck-up-novel-a-guest-post-by-john-warner/. I feel I would be remiss of me not to mention a man that I consider a master of this genre and whose public persona is almost as unlikable as his characters: Jonathan Franzen. Enjoy!