The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Donna Tartt is not what you’d call a prolific writer, but when you read her books, you will see why. Because her novels are masterpieces. They’re not the sort of thing that can be crafted overnight. And The Goldfinch is no exception.

I LOVED The Goldfinch. Loved it. At well over 800 pages of closely-packed type, it’s not going to be for everyone. It’s not exactly an easy read, but perhaps not as challenging as you might expect of a novel of that length.

It tells the story of Theo Decker, whose life changes dramatically when his mother dies in unusual circumstances. The love he feels for his mum is tangible and beautiful. You really can feel just how much he cared for her, and she for him.

But life has to move on. At just 13, Theo is pretty much left to make his own way in the world. He is shifted from one place to the next, never feeling properly at home and never feeling really wanted. It’s perhaps not surprising that he isn’t the most likeable of characters. In his situation, I guess very few people would be all that likeable. Life has dealt him a really tough hand.

But Theo has a secret. A small picture which reminds him of his mother, which he guards with his life. Just knowing he has that picture, makes life seem that bit better.

About two-thirds of the way through the book there is a twist, which I certainly never saw coming. It sends Theo, who has always lived slightly on the edge,  into a much darker world of crime.

The book is so vivid that it played at the back of my mind. It felt like I’d watched a film (it would make a brilliant film, not that two hours on screen could ever fully do it justice).

My only complaint about The Goldfinch is that the ending felt a little rushed and unsatisfactory. But this is a brilliant book, and comes highly recommended!

The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt, Book review

Author: Sarah Mummy

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19 Comments

  1. Sarah, I finished The Goldfinch this week and have been dying to have a discussion with someone about it. I thought it was a very fine novel, if not 2 or 3 novels fused together. What struck me was how much love Theo experienced, without ever feeling loved, after his mother’s death: Andy, Boris, Hobie, Pippa, Andy’s Mum all loved him. I wondered if there was a message about the irreplaceability of a Mother’s love?

    I agree that the ending was disappointing, but not to the extent that it erases the memory of some audacious, dramatic and emotional scenes.

    Have your read A Secret History? I read it 20 years ago and am tempted to go back to it.

    Great review, Chris

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    • Thanks very much, it’s so nice to discover other people have read it too! I read Secret History five or six years ago and I absolutely loved it! One of my favourite books ever – so dark and haunting.
      I found it amazing too the way he drifted through life and from NY to Vegas and back again picking up these people who really cared for him. And his love and devotion to his mum was just heartbreaking.

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    • All of her books are amazing – very dark, but very moving and brilliantly written. Definitely worth checking it out. x

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  2. I keep seeing this book pop up in reviews and the reviews are normally pretty good. I haven’t been reading enough lately so may have to get hold of a copy of this.

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    • It’s definitely worth a read, but it’s one of those that takes time and commitment! If you can commit to it, you will definitely be rewarded.

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  3. I filled up just reading this post. As you may know, I lost my mum three years ago so it will be an emotional read but it’s all part of the healing process isn’t it? Thanks for the head’s up. Never heard of it until this post. X

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    • Sorry to hear it made you well up. The parts about his mum’s death and his grieving are so beautifully written and his love just shines through. Definitely well worth a read. x

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  4. I absolutely loved The Goldfinch and enjoyed taking my time over it. Like you I wasn’t too keen on the very end of the book although I liked how it ended if that makes sense? I think it oversimplified some of the symbolism and was just unnecessary. Maybe it’s an American thing to spell things out like it did but it jarred with the beautiful style of the rest of the book. Still didn’t spoil what was one of my favourite books ever though!

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    • It was one of my favourite books ever too! I think it took me about a month to read, although I read the whole Vegas section in a day! (A couple of long train journeys.) The ending did kind of round things off, but seemed a bit rushed. I just loved the rest of it though.

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  5. I enjoyed it, but found it overlong in places. The Las Vegas section seemed to go on forever and I’m not sure it was all necessary. I’ve read her two previous books, but whilst I’ve enjoyed the second two, none of them have kept me up reading into the small hours like her first. I’ll be back for the next though (in about 10 years time).

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    • I’ll be back too! I loved The Secret History, wasn’t so keen on the second one though. I really enjoyed the Vegas section and his strange relationship with Boris.

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  6. Sounds like a fab book. I’m always on the look-out for good books and having set myself the challenge of reading 52 books this year I’m lining them up!

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    • Good luck with that! I could never manage 52 books in a year! I’m definitely reading more this year than I did last year though. I don’t think this would help you achieve 52 books though – reckon it took me a month to read.

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  7. Wow that sounds like a good book! I have heard mixed reports about this books and wondered if it was really my kind of book but it does sound really interesting.

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    • It really is very good. It’s quite dark, which is not to everyone’s tastes, but it is perfect for me. It’s so well-written too and surprisingly accessible considering the size of it.

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  8. I read this as one of our book group books – I loved it! I thought the start was brilliant but felt it lost it’s way a little in the middle. Very readable though despite its size.

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    • It is very readable! I really loved the Vegas section – it was probably the crime bits that I found hardest to deal with. I liked the bits about his relationships best.

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