Of late, I’ve noticed a trend of reading novels that are way too long. Between Imperial Requiem and now The Goldfinch I have been reading a ton, but very little quantity. Most people know that this novel was the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize and from the reviews that I have read in various magazine and newspaper readers either really enjoyed the novel or thoroughly despised it. I am more in the “really enjoyed” camp, but there were many issues with the novel that I wish Tartt was a bit wiser to.
The Goldfinch tells the tale of a young boy’s life through his teenage years to his early adulthood. Theo Decker is his name and within the first part of the book suffers the largest loss that anyone can suffer: the loss of his mother. Most terrifying, she is killed in a terrorist plot while visiting the Met Museum. Theo after the bomb causes devastation in the museum and steals the painting: The Goldfinch. From there, the novel follows him on his travels from living with a friend’s family in the upper echelons of society in New York City to Las Vegas, Nevada with his father (who left him and his mom months before his mom died) and then back to New York City.
The greatest aspect of this novel would have to be its scope and its thorough description of each of the novel’s characters. The reader could feel as though they were a character in the book and lived amongst the characters, knowing each and every one of their eccentricities. These descriptions can only be written by the most gifted of authors, and that is what Tartt is. To think that each of these characters came from her mind is truly awesome; perhaps she had someone in her life that resembled Hobie or Boris. But, I feel as though her imagination created these characters to further describe the story and add to its richness.
Speaking of Hobie and Boris, the juxtaposition of these characters added so much to this novel. Hobie was a lower class individual whose partner was also murdered in the museum bombing. That is how Theo was introduced to Hobie. Hobie was a truthful, caring, and honest person. He wanted nothing more to sell his furniture at a regular price and use the proceeds to acquire new furniture and refurbish them. Boris, on the other hand, was Russian boy who Theo met in Las Vegas in high school. He was a troublemaker and introduced Theo to a range of illicit drugs. After this, Theo was forever addicted to drugs and their feeling which would forever cause Theo to have personal issues with people and relationships.
Now, this is one of the subject matters that I despised in this book. Drugs in Theo’s life caused so much problems. You would think that he would learn to get clean, but no! He always returned to them. In a way, perhaps Tartt wanted to enlighten the readers to what effects drugs can cause in life. But this overarching theme is clear and doesn’t need a 771 page novel to illuminate. Furthermore, I really hated the character Boris. Boris was annoying and never made any sense. Whether him not making sense was caused by his extreme drug abuse, I’m not sure. He never followed through on a coherent thought, it was always “move on to the next subject.” This was very hard to read and really detracted from the overall novel. Lastly, on the topic of novel dislikes, I really hated the ending. Twenty pages or so of stream of conscious thinking and then just ending really was not a terrific ending. It was neither happy nor bad. Just an ending. This story deserved a more deserving and fruitful ending.
Even though I didn’t like some of the characters or the ending of The Goldfinch it is still a worth while novel to read. Very hefty and thick to carry around while on a commute, but definitely work the read. Take time and enjoy it. It’s one of those books you must pay close attention to all the details, even if they are about drug abuse. So, buy it, and go for a read. It’s a heavy (in more ways than one) read for the summer, yet is thoroughly enjoyable. Gobble it up!