Addicted to Audible!
I tried reading Donna Tartt's previous books and couldn't get into them. Perhaps I will try the audios. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this book- I will admit that it could have benefitted from a better editor. However, I did not not get bored. I found myself immersed in the story and I really enjoyed living in Theodores crazy world.I thought the narrator was excellent. I won't go into the story since there are so many reviews, and yes it was a bit far fetched in many instances, but that is what fiction is about. To take us to another world, another life and let us imagine the "what if's...."
A terrorist bomb explodes in a New York art gallery, killing many people and destroying priceless art treasures. Theo, the hero of this book, loses his mother in the blast, but before discovering this he is given a famous painting, The Goldfinch, by an old man dying of his wounds, accompanied by a young girl.
The rest of the book describes the effects of this initial trauma on the life of the boy growing into a man. He is taken in by two kind New York families and is eventually reclaimed by his dodgy estranged father, who whisks him off to Las Vegas. Theo still has the painting and has kept it secret all along.
He forms a friendship with a likable Russian-American rogue and they hang out together, getting drunk and experimenting with drugs. His father is then killed as a result of mixing in the wrong circles, and so Theo is alone again. He runs away to avoid Child Custody Services and rejoins the kindly New York antique dealer who had helped him after the bomb blast.
The book then shoots forward a few years to find Theo getting himself into trouble by selling fake antiques, and then he is reunited with his Russian Friend. There is a bit of an adventure at the end and I won't spoil it any more than I have already done.
Overall, I was disappointed by this book. It is well-written and the characters are well-drawn and engaging, but the plot is slow and a bit random. It sort of drifts along and you are thinking 'come on, come on, get on with it', and although it finishes with a dramatic climax you are still thinking 'what was the point of all that?'. It is all a bit shapeless and unsatisfying.
It's always hard to give a really good writer a bad review but this book is just too much ... too long, too depressing, too long, too one dimensional, too long ...
I've listened to about 14 hours of Theo being the good-but-stupid kid. I don't think it's worth another 18 hours of my life, especially when the opening told me Theo is still in the midst of self-destructing. If this is so Dickensian, I might as well go back and read Dickens.
I want to reach out and hug Theo, take him home and comfort him ... but I also want to shake him silly. He made a friend in Hobie and then just lets it go. I want a book to have an arc ... this one just seems to be one long, joyless ride to nowhere.
While some have complained about the narrator, I thought he did a great job and probably kept me listening several hours longer than I would have otherwise.
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".
I did not learn to read until I was in my twenties. Have not stopped since. The two most important things to learn are reading & chess.
The story started off well and caught my interest right from the beginning. Unfortunately that did not last long. I should have returned the book. The story focused so much on drug and alcohol abuse it became boring quickly. I ended up fast forwarding at the speed of 2 and sometimes 2.5 to find out what happened to the painting, which was the only part of the story that was of interest, and turned out to be a very small part. All of the characters were so flawed I could cared less what happened to them, most of all the main character.
Tartt's descriptions of the main character's use of drugs was good, but more information than I was interested in hearing.
The plot would have been much better if Tratt followed the painting rather than main character and his drugged up life and messed up friends.
Pittu narration was good considering the material he was presenting.
So hooked by audio that I have to read books aloud. *If my reviews help, please let me know.
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.
From Austen to zombies!
Plenty of novels that offer great truths about the world are rewarding to read, but unfortunately dry as dust. Reviews for The Goldfinch mention its many themes and messages--consequently I was a little nervous putting it in my cart, especially after I read some of the reviews of the narrator.
My worry was wasted. The Goldfinch really comes through with 32-plus hours of riveting listening.
Theo Decker is only 13 when he loses his mother in a catastrophe at a museum. He survives, and with him is a tiny painting by a forgotten Dutch master, Carel Fabritius. The painting is always in his thoughts as, over a number of years, he is passed from home to home: with a school friend on Park Avenue in New York, with his father and a wiggy girlfriend in Las Vegas, with a restorer of fine furniture in Greenwich Village.
In those places, as he tries desperately to put his life back together in spite of a total lack of preparation for such a disaster, Theo meets some of the more interesting and well-drawn characters I've seen in a literary novel. Some books that purport to be about "quirky" people feel a little forced--in less skillful hands, characters can seem like they're trying too hard to be weird and fun.
But good characters like Tartt's remind you of people you've known in your own life: a frustrating parent, well-meaning school counselors, annoying kids at school, an uncle that's always fussing over you. There are plenty of great examples here, including my favorite, Boris--a guy so crazy and fearless that even a trip to the local Quickie Mart is an epic adventure. (I firmly believe everyone should have at least one person like him in their life at some point!)
Some sections of the book were a bit long--there were a few conversations that made me squirm with frustration. I wanted to yell out, "Just SAY it!" But to balance it out there's a great wealth of detail that reminded me of the fun parts of anything by Dickens or Stephen King (to non-readers of King--yes, there are fun parts!).
The detail is particularly worthy when works of art are described. Art history geeks will be in heaven (I was!) but it's pretty easy to find Tartt's references online--I know, because there were a bunch I had to look up. I suggest finding a good picture of The Goldfinch to look at before listening, too--there were places where I wished I had done that myself.
I had never heard of David Pittu before and like I mentioned, I was a little nervous after I read some of the reviews. But again, the worry was wasted. For the great wealth of characters, he managed to come up with different accents and voices, and I always knew who was talking. His Russian/Ukraine accents were as good as his New York society ladies. At some points he seemed a little breathless, maybe even hammy, but it never lasted long and with the length of this book, I forgive him.
If you like art, or literature, or humor, or edge-of-the-seat suspense, or even if you just want to see some of the wide selection of weirdos this world has to offer, I recommend The Goldfinch. It's big--but it's worth it.
I didn't even finish it. I thought this was a book about art and family. Instead, I spent hours listening to a teenager get drunk and high.
The time spent on drugs and alcohol and little time to develop the relationship between characters or a cohesive storyline.
This is one depressing listen! Although well performed, the story itself goes from one disaster to another, and just when there is some glimmer of things improving for "Potter" , the world collapses on him again. Not recommended for anyone on antidepressants who reads for escape.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
At the center of The Goldfinch is a painting by the 17th century master, Fabritius, whose life was cut short when a nearby gunpowder magazine exploded. When 13-year-old Theo Decker and his mother duck into a NYC art gallery to view this and other pieces, another explosion ends Theo's mother's life. In the disorienting confusion that follows, a dying, delirious old man pushes The Goldfinch on Theo, who stumbles out with it in a bag. Over the next decade, Theo's new acquisition, which is now on the FBI’s unsolved art theft list, becomes a defining part of his life.
The parallel between the two explosions, of course, is intentional. Over its 700+ pages, this sometimes brilliant, sometimes frustrating bildungsroman contemplates the intermingled roles of catastrophe and fortune in shaping human experience and its meaning. Is bad necessary to create good in the world? Are beauty and pain ever separable? This one finds the answers no less elusive than other novels, but perhaps there are glimpses of them in the more memorable passages and characters.
Readers have noted the similarities to Dickens. Like David Copperfield, young Theo is shuffled around between various institutional figures, reluctant caretakers, kindly benefactors, and friends of varying quality, before eventually growing up and finding his own path. He spends time with a wan grade school friend and his dysfunctional Upper East Side family. His sketchy, alcoholic father, who walked out on the family a few years ago, makes a reappearance, with a brassy, too-tanned girlfriend in tow. There’s a middle-aged restorer of antique furniture who becomes Theo’s mentor. And there’s Boris, a worldly, fearless, Artful Dodger of a Ukrainian teenager who becomes young Theo’s new best friend, though not always to the latter’s benefit, and is my favorite part of the novel. Like Dickens, Tartt makes her narrator a little unreliable, though she doesn't go for Dickens's sentimentality.
Tartt is, no question, a marvelous writer. Her central characters, particularly Boris, burst with personality, and many scenes unfold in delicious visual detail, like a carefully-wrapped package slowly being unwrapped. Her sense of place, from a cramped, dusty furniture store in downtown NYC to the arid emptiness of a semi-abandoned Las Vegas housing development, can be fantastic. She describes the torments of unrequited love with excruciating trueness, and can make a scene as tawdry as two teenagers on a basement drug binge feel oddly beautiful.
However, I did find this novel a little overstuffed. Some scenes feel redundant or pointlessly dragged out. Tartt introduces a number of characters that hover on the periphery, never developing into more than caricatures. An obvious example is the adult Theo's fiancé, who's reminiscent of David Copperfield's irritating "child wife", but is such an uninteresting sketch that she could have been edited down, if not out. The same goes for Theo's main love interest, who is important to one or two chapters, but is so limited in her actual presence on the page, I wondered why Tartt bothered.
But, even with the editing issues, when Tartt is on, she can be dazzling. I loved the Las Vegas sequence, in which we meet Boris, as well as the sequence in which an older Theo digs himself into a moral hole while trying to save Hobie's furniture store from financial ruin, and runs afoul of a shady collector. Then there's the harrowing finale in Amsterdam, which follows the reveal of a surprising secret and ties up most of the novel's major plot and and thematic threads. While the Goldfinch does have some problems, for me, its strengths outshone them. I'd happily recommend this one to fans of Jonathan Safran Foer or Marisha Pessl.
Audiobook narrator David Pittu can be commended for his attention to the emotion of the prose and his range of male accents, though he sometimes overacts, particularly with his nasally female voices. 3.5 stars.