Tartt can thank Stephen King for bestowing upon her latest novel the now inescapable hagiographic parallel to Dickens. A guarantee that here is a standout novel, the rarity we've been waiting for, Tartt's confectionary special treat, and masterful line-up of characters, "was there ever such a goose?!" You can almost touch the bedazzled jeans of Xandra and be transported, a la the Ghost of Tacky Extravagances Present, to the skeezy outskirts of Vegas, hear the slot machines tink-tink-tink, and gasp for a breath of hot, dry, exhaled tobacco air. And after I plodded through the first 100 pages (constant references to Dickens can sometimes handicap a story that way...great expectations, so to speak) I was on board.
The obvious associations, The Artful Dodger, Fagin, Pip, Estella, to Harry Potter, the Thénardiers Waltz of Treachery, are well done, nods and dopplegängers from great literature that can stand in their own story -- quite a feat. But by far the showpiece of this book, and where Tartt turns on the magic and earns such lofty comparisons, is when our poor half-orphaned Theo is whisked away from the aesthete life in New York to Vegas -- here the emotional heart of the story begins. Theo's scumbag father, the outrageous wife Xandra, and * the world's greatest no-goodnik* Boris, (a likewise semi-orphaned son of a scumbag, and Ukranian immigrant) make up an unholy and brilliant trio occupying the low-wattage outskirts of Vegas, lit-up on drugs, booze and harebrained schemes. Tartt traps Theo in a drug-hazed nihilistic post card vision of Las Vegas. She creates this world with a force, it's vivid and claustrophobic; neon vacancy signs, drifting toys in empty pools, heat waves rippling in a badly tinted blue sky under a vulgar grinning sun. Theo wallows in his sorrow, semi-conscious of the days, chained to his grief and knowledge of the stolen piece of art.
When artist Carel Fabritius (1622-1654) painted The Goldfinch, he was *heralded for his gifts of illusion and brilliant trompe l'oeil techniques; the composition was elegant in its spare simplicity.* At a whopping 771 pages (that's 32+ hrs. if you do the Audible math) this contradictory titled novel has a wingspan more like that of the Andean condor -- drug addiction, abuse, urban and social decay, art theft and forgery, organized crime, coming of age and unrequited love -- a palette of subjects mined and detailed like little books themselves, all under the broad brushstrokes of Tartt's Goldfinch. There is a surfeit of thought provoking topics on which Tartt provides enough education to tempt a cerebral tangent away from the story: the psychology of Survivor's Guilt, philosophy of art for both the aesthete and moralist, the search for the literary golden fleece: the deeper meaning behind the words.
She may have a bit of philosopher in her, definitely an art lover, but above all, Tartt is a great novelist and contemporary storyteller. There are the bumps-- inconsistencies and improbabilities to perseverate over, but these added more charm and mystery than distraction from the huge story. That is what a storyteller sets out to do, and does, fantasy/realism, larger than life...probability be damned. I don't remember ever questioning probability reading Dickens. Yes, art lifts us up, and speaks to us in its own language; and so does Tartt.
Avid audible listener for over 10 years.
I can imagine Boris, one of the characters, saying exactly that in his russian accent. "Shut up Theo you talk to much. Oh my head hurts too many words" .
The author is a great writer and the narrator is great, but you will find yourself fast forwarding a lot by end of book. Near end there is a 2 hour endless dialogue with Theo by himself in a hotel room in Amsterdam. It is interminable to listen to it.
Some people compare it to Dickens, it is not really there. It actually reminds me a lot of Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities. The lead character, Theo, is unable to get over a tragedy that happens when he is twelve. His life spirals downhill, and only at the end does he find redemption. The author gets really preachy about the "power of art" to change mankind.
When the story is moving along at a good pace, it is very good. When it starts to get preachy its very bad. The author needs to get a new editor who will get out the red pencil and chop and chop. Most of teh time I found myself saying "enough already, get on with the story".
ELLE aka PlantCrone of the Great Pacific Northwest. I enjoy almost every genre-S/F, Action, Biographies and Histories & Romance
I am into the second of the 5 Audible 'chapters' of this book and am fascinated by the authors intricate storytelling as well as the narrators ability with different voices.
We all know a narrator can make or break a novel. David Pittu has met this challenge wonderfully. He reads the novel, one that is full of details and different people, with glory and imagination.
This is my first Donna Tartt book and I'm sure I'll be listening to her other novels, if this is typical of her. I love long novels, and also enjoy novels with lots of personal information about the characters. Donna Tartt supplies these with the same enthusiasm as Rosamund Pilcher or Diana Galbendon do in their novels, though this is a totally different type of story as either of the mentioned authors write, the feelings brought forth in their stories are full of details that truly flesh out the primary characters thoughts, feelings and views.
I've read many of the Amazon reviews and mentioned so frequently is the length, the length,the length of the novel.
SO What!! It's a long book..it took Tartt 7 years to give birth to the book and develop the story. Shes not a brief writer, apparently, I say "Good For Her."
The great thing about Audible is we can listen anytime, in the car, doing housework, walking the dog..or as I am this evening at 9PM. Not involved in some inane reality TV program. Instead I have the unmitigated pleasure of listening to a wonderful book that lets me use my imagination to view the scene that Tartt write with such ability.
Well worth your credit!
I had read another review where the reviewer had absolutely loved the book until the end, where she felt the author started to "pontificate." I couldn't agree more.
The story is absolutely amazing -- at times charming, at times sad, at times hilariously funny, at times heartbreaking.The plot moves in crazy directions, making it sound like almost different novels put together (from a very intimate portrayal of a kid going through loss…to a mad caper through the back alleys of Amsterdam)…and yet it works. You don't mind accompanying Theo on his road trip through life. I LOVED it from the very beginning and simply could not put it down.
AND THEN come the last couple of hours, where the narrator seems to lose confidence in her amazing skill and she has the main character ramble on and on and on and on (and on) about 'the meaning of life.' No! No! No! That was totally unnecessary (and condescending and pedantic), Donna. We GOT IT! You did a great job getting us to GET IT. There was no need for the sudden (and boring) style change. (Where was the editor???)
As I was reading the book, I kept thinking, "HOW could you not give this book five stars, no matter if that reviewer is right and it fails a bit at the end?" And yet, as it turns out, I could not give it five stars because of that excruciating two-hour homily towards the end (perhaps it was just an hour, but it felt longer).
Still, I recommend The Goldfinch. The other 28 hours were absolutely great.
The narrator is excellent. Loved him so much that I went to see what else he had done (to my dismay, he has done a lot of kid books…and I had actually listened to most of his few adult books already).
A riveting story but ultimately interminable and cloying. By the last few hours I was really wishing that Theo would OD or anything just to make him shut up! If it had been half as long it would have been a great story. Perfect narrator, too bad he had to play an amoral professional victim who overthinks everything to death. I'm glad I stuck it out, but I think this book is somewhat over-rated.
Fight the Power
Too many words (pretentious) getting in the way of the story (trite). Your time would be better spent reading the label on a can of corn.
There aren't many 1 Credit books that take more than 30 hours to read. Many by Dickens, several by the Russians and David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest (58 hours without the footnotes!). These are worth reading and they are worth listening too and the duration is a bonus.
I listen to audiobooks for several different reasons. Most of those reasons have to do with being entertained or distracted. If the book and narrator are "just good enough" to amuse, distract, or both, the longer the book the better it satisfies what I want from it.
The structure of this story didn't seem strong enough to support its length, so while it was good enough to listen to for 30+ hours, it didn't say anything that was particularly interesting to me, or if it did, it didn't say it memorably.
If you're painting a room (two coats, trim, prep time, and clean-up) this would be a reasonable selection.
The narrator gives life to the main character. His voice is both innocent and worldly.
Theo Decker the main character is a tragic hero, but the reader cannot help but identify with his foibles.
I would love to have Boris as a dinner companion because of his voracious and indomitable appetite for life.
I am still thinking about the book, and it has been a week since I finished it. It is one of those rare books one considers a companion. It left me thinking about deeper questions of life.
I'm not sure. I just couldn't connect with any of it. It just went on and on and I kept telling myself it would get better and I just never could get into it or behind the main characters. I can't figure out what I'm missing. Clearly many other reviewers really enjoyed it.
The main character, come on Theo, get it together.
Yes, definitely, as long as he isn't using a Russian accent.
Disappointment and frustration...and a healthy dose of boredom.
I absolutely love Tartt's other books and just can't figure out what everybody else sees in this book. Maybe I will try again at a later date.
This was the first book by Donna Tartt that I read (or listened to). The story is great and beleivable in all its tiny details. I think it pictures very well of how it is to be raised today in the Western society. You don't have to lose your parents (or even one of them) to end up on the somewhat shady side of life. You might just as well have parents who are (physically or mentally) absent and who does not think child-rearing is a particluar interesting topic. But kids survive, even if they don't thrive, or succeed in the "normal" way. The story is very well told, does never get boring and it is brought to a very logical end. I loved this book and will look for others by the author. The narration is also great.