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The Goldfinch (2013)

by Donna Tartt

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
10,183644482 (3.96)1 / 683
A young boy in New York City, Theo Decker, miraculously survives an accident that takes the life of his mother. Alone and abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by a friend's family and struggles to make sense of his new life. In the years that follow, he becomes entranced by one of the few things that reminds him of his mother; a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the art underworld.… (more)
  1. 184
    The Secret History by Donna Tartt (stricken)
  2. 102
    The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (JuliaMaria)
  3. 00
    Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (pbirch01)
    pbirch01: Both have protagonists that use rare artworks to get what they want and execute their plan over many years
  4. 00
    Sympathy by Olivia Sudjic (niquetteb)
    niquetteb: The detailed writing styles are similar.
  5. 11
    The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (shaunie)
    shaunie: The Dutch House is in some ways a slimmed down, more enjoyable Goldfinch.
  6. 11
    The World to Come by Dara Horn (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Paintings are at the heart of these hefty novels, both of which combine the antics of a heist novel with ruminations on literature, history, and loss. Memorable characters and rich details add to the enjoyment of both books.
  7. 11
    Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg (vwinsloe)
    vwinsloe: A book about trauma, guilt and complicated grief. The effect of secrets and drugs on lives and families.
  8. 01
    You Remind Me of Me by Dan Chaon (sipthereader)
    sipthereader: Loss of a young parent; leading a deceptive life
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English (605)  Spanish (6)  Dutch (6)  Italian (6)  French (6)  German (2)  Swedish (2)  Norwegian (1)  Danish (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (636)
Showing 1-5 of 605 (next | show all)
The writing is beautiful. The characters are very "now." In many ways, Donna Tartt captured contemporary American city life in a way Tom Wolfe captured it in the 1980s -- with the irony but without Wolfe's gut-busting humor. Young people raising themselves. Self-absorbed adults posing as parents. The prevalence of mental illness and addiction and the relationship of the two. Terrorism. Art theft to fund drug and weapons cartels. It's all in there and then some. And that is really the problem for me. I found The Goldfinch to be a compelling story of a young man at the mercy of the system, an odyssey and a coming of age. I loved its structure and the lovely passages about art and culture, the references to all things raffinés. But then it begins to drag to a painfully drawn out conclusion. It's a nod to Tolstoy, I guess, but who hasn't wished Leo had had a great editor to pare down his superfluity. The whole chapter in Anna Karenina about threshing wheat? It's like that. As a logophile, I truly enjoyed all of the $10 words used for precision of meaning, an art unto itself not found in many current titles. But the ending struck me as self-indulgent on the author's part, in need of a good, thoughtful editor. ( )
  MMKY | Jul 3, 2020 |
While it’s not a perfect book, the good is so good that it completely overshadows the book’s flaws. First, the bad. The sheer length…so many words used to often describe fairly mundane events. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. Then the good. The writing itself is stunning. I can see why it won the Pulitzer. The characters are well-developed and the settings so real. Boris/Hobie 2020. ( )
  jonathanpapz | Jul 2, 2020 |
I'm not entirely sure what to think about this book. Parts I enjoyed, but mostly listening to this audiobook felt like a 32.5-hour slog. Well, slightly less than that because three-fourths of the way through I got a new phone with a different operating system and the new app let me speed up the playback. Boris's accent sounds...interesting sped up.

Although I thought his description of existential depression was spot-on, I neither liked nor trusted Theo. There were odd inconsistencies in his story, like he has a memory of packing up the apartment, but there's nothing in his story about going back to box everything up after the quick flight away, so where does this memory come from? And way back in the beginning, why the heck didn't someone take this kid to a hospital right away? He talks about how he's writing this at the intersection of fiction and truth. Is he admitting to lying? (I hope this is all vague enough not to spoil the plot, but I apologize if it's not.)

Many times I wished I'd had a copy of the book-book to look at to see if I could clear up some of these confusing bits. Did he really skip that major detail, or did I just space out while listening to the audiobook? And I remember him saying something about how no one is going to be listening to this story "for obvious reasons," but they're not obvious to me because I have no idea what that means. Did he really say that or did I nod off and mix up what was happening with whatever weird dream I was falling into?

But while the book irritated me, this morning I found myself feeling a little sad that I wasn't going to be listening to it again today and actually kind of missing some of the characters (not Theo so much, but other characters). Apparently the novel grew on me in spite of itself. And I did like the idea that sometimes bad things happen when we do the right thing and sometimes good things happen out of very bad things. So, three stars instead of the one or two I was thinking of giving it. But I'm still glad to be done with it.


Update 11/11/16:

After doing some more online looking and discovering many other inconsistencies in Theo's stories that other readers picked up on (and I didn't), I'm convinced that these were intentional on Tartt's part rather than oversights. So, knowing that Theo is intentionally a liar, I'm left with a couple of questions:

1) What's the use of reading a story written by someone who lies?

I think that each of us constructs our own narratives about our lives, the stories that make sense of what happens to us. In this sense, we are all "liars" in that we remember things as makes sense to us and is perhaps not always as things actually happened. So, if we accept this premise, then reading Theo's story teaches us about ourselves, both as individuals and as members of a culture that values story above fact. This does not, however, mean that this story is enjoyable to read. That gets into whether fiction's primary purpose is to entertain, and that is another discussion.

2) Does Theo know he's a liar or is this really how he believes things happened?

I have an aunt who tells real whoppers. Like, she insists that she was sent to the Netherlands with the Navy, but she has eyewitnesses to attest to the fact that she spent her entire military career in California. Is she actively lying or does she really believe this? Has her mind constructed memories of canals and cobblestone streets to fit this story she's told herself? For that matter, was my high school government teacher really in the CIA as he claims he was? I always suspected that former CIA members wouldn't identify themselves as such, but who am I to say? But it seems, when one is inside someone else's mind as we are when we read first-person fiction, that it matters whether a person is intentionally telling a falsehood or if he really believes his own story. I really don't know which is the case for Theo. I could see it either way, and I really don't think it matters much to him. It's quite possible that the reason that "for obvious reasons" no one can read his story is that he's in some institution or prison or something and writing a personal journal that he's not actually sharing with anyone. The story about traveling the world is just his hallucination or lie or whatever. It's all possible because his story is so implausible anyway. What is the difference between a hallucination and a lie? I would have thought it would be that with a lie, the person knows it's false, but I've come to understand that sometimes people hallucinate and are trapped in that hallucination even though they know it's untrue, which suggests that knowing the difference between "true" and "false" does not distinguish between an hallucination and an actual memory.

Now I've gotten all turned around, so I'm going to abandon this line of reasoning. Regardless, I can still say that while this interpretation perhaps inspires more appreciation for what Tartt has done in this novel, it doesn't really increase my enjoyment of it. But darned if I don't want to go back through and read the thing again more closely, not because I think it will be enjoyable, but because I think I would read it differently with this new insight. It's the same reason I watched Mulholland Drive three times in a row---but Mullholland Drive didn't take 32.5 hours for each viewing. ( )
  ImperfectCJ | Jun 28, 2020 |
This is a long, dense book, but also much more readable than I originally feared. The internal struggle of Theo were highly compelling, even as his life careens towards disaster. What really struck me about this novel though, is that as the ending approached and I was thoroughly dissatisfied with the direction of the plot, everything changed and this book became strangely life-affirming, with a message worthy of winning the Pulitzer Prize. After intending to read this book for years, I'm sincerely glad I pulled it off the shelf and chose to read it now. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Jun 28, 2020 |
Theodore Decker loses his beloved mother in an terrorist's bomb at the Museum of Art in NYC. In the melee, he takes the famous painting The Goldfinch (believing he is protecting it somehow). He hooks up with an antiques owner (via the same event) in NYC. His estranged father turns up and takes him to Las Vegas where Theo spends his formative years in a drug-fueled, crazy blaze with best friend Boris. (For this reader, this relationship is the center and best part of the book). When his father dies in a car crash, Theo bounds back to NYC. He ends up getting caught up in the art underworld and reconnecting with Boris. Theo discovers that Boris had in fact stole the Goldfinch back in NV and it becomes the hot potato they seek. Beautiful writing but too long and, in the end, too much of a soap opera for this reader. ( )
  mjspear | Jun 27, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 605 (next | show all)
Good things are worth waiting for. . . a tour de force that will be among the best books of 2013.
added by 4leschats | editBookPage, Megan Fishmann (Nov 1, 2013)
It’s my happy duty to tell you that in this case, all doubts and suspicions can be laid aside. “The Goldfinch” is a rarity that comes along perhaps half a dozen times per decade, a smartly written literary novel that connects with the heart as well as the mind. I read it with that mixture of terror and excitement I feel watching a pitcher carry a no-hitter into the late innings. You keep waiting for the wheels to fall off, but in the case of “The Goldfinch,” they never do.
Book review in English 2 out of 5
added by zwelbast | editNRC (Dutch), Rob van Essen (Sep 23, 2013)
Book review in English 5 out of 5 stars

» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Donna Tarttprimary authorall editionscalculated
Fabritius, CarelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hayes, KeithCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jong, Sjaak deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lecq, Paul van derTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nielsen, Rose-MarieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nimwegen, Arjaan vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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La Scala Rizzoli (Stranieri)
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The absurd does not liberate; it binds.
#part 5: We have art in order not to die from the truth - Nietzsche
#part 2: When we are strongest - who draws back? Most merry - Who falls down laughing? When we are very bad, - what can they do to us? - Arthur Rimbaud.
For Mother, For Claude
First words
While I was still in Amsterdam, I dreamed about my mother for the first time in years.
It seemed like the kind of room where a call girl or a stewardess would be murdered on television.
He's telling you that living things don't last--it's all temporary. Death in life. That's why they're called natures mortes. Maybe you don't see it at first with all the beauty and bloom, the little speck of rot. But if you look closer--there it is.
Every new event--everything I did for the rest of my life--would only separate us more and more: days she was no longer a part of, an ever-growing distance between us. Every single day for the rest of my life, she would only be further away.
But sometimes, unexpectedly, grief pounded over me in waves that left me gasping; and when the waves washed back, I found myself looking out over a brackish wreck which was illumined in a light so lucid, so heartsick and empty, that I could hardly remember that the world had ever been anything but dead.
When I looked at the painting I felt the same convergence on a single point: a flickering sun-struck instant that existed now and forever. Only occasionally did I notice the chain on the finch's ankle, or think what a cruel life for a little living creature--fluttering briefly, forced always to land in the same hopeless place.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Qui est Theo ? Que lui est il arrivé à New York pour qu'il soit quatorze ans plus tard , cloîtré dans une chambre d'hôtel à Amsterdam comme une bête traquée ? D'où vient cette toile de maître , Le Chardonneret , qu'il transporte partout avec lui ?

Ce roman laisse le lecteur essouflé , éblouï et encore une fois conquis par le talent hors du commun de Donna TARTT.
Haiku summary
Liked a goldfinch chained / Booze, drugs can't erase the pain / Of his mother's death (LynnB)
Blast kills mother.
Painting of a goldfinch
dominates life's remainder.

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