Audie Award Finalist, Solo Narration - Male, 2013
Audie Award Finalist, Literary Fiction, 2013
The author of the classic best-sellers The Secret History and The Little Friend returns with a brilliant, highly anticipated new novel.
Composed with the skills of a master, The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America and a drama of enthralling force and acuity.
It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.
As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love - and at the center of a narrowing, ever-more-dangerous circle.
The Goldfinch is a novel of shocking narrative energy and power. It combines unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and breathtaking suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher's calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is a beautiful, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.
©2013 Donna Tartt (P)2013 Hachette Audio
Narrator David Pittu accepts the task of turning this immense volume into an excellent listening experience. Pittu portrays 13-year-old orphan Theo Decker with compassion, portraying his growing maturity in this story of grief and suspense…Pittu adds pathos to his depiction of the troubled Theo as he deals with addiction and finds himself in a dance with gangsters and the art world's darker dealers. (AudioFile)
"Dazzling....[A] glorious, Dickensian novel, a novel that pulls together all Ms. Tartt's remarkable storytelling talents into a rapturous, symphonic whole and reminds the reader of the immersive, stay-up-all-night pleasures of reading." (New York Times)
"A long-awaited, elegant meditation on love, memory, and the haunting power of art....Eloquent and assured, with memorable characters....A standout-and well-worth the wait." (Kirkus, Starred Review)
I hear voices. But maybe that's because there's always an Audible book in my ear.
No question, this will be on my "favorite books of the year" list - and very near the top. Tartt examines some very big topics - love, loss, death, life, forgiveness, redemption and addiction - and she does so with a skill that's secondary to none.
The main characters are BIG - in personality, flaws, strengths - and enormously engaging. I adored Theo, Boris and Hobie and have loved having them live at my house while I was listening. There's a sense of loss now that they're gone.
I've read some harsh reviews of the narrator and I don't understand that. I thought he was perfect for this book. It was a fresh take. His interpretation of both Boris and Hobie was delightful. I never would have imagined those voices if I'd read this in print. It was an added dimension that made it all the more enjoyable.
With more than 30 hours of engaging story, this is one of the most credit-worthy books around. Really, what could be better? It's a good long listen that's beautifully read. I wish they were always this good.
So...you're telling me I can pay people to read books to me whilst I do other things?
I'd read Donna Tartt's Secret History years ago and loved it; I became aware of this latest work via a recent NYT book review by Stephen King.
This is mostly an homage to Dickens, but the layer of art history--specifically Dutch masters--makes it all the more compelling.
Like Dickens, Tartt weaves an epic and sympathetic tale, replete with colorful characters--both virtuous, villainous, and somewhere in-between--(which are, of course the most interesting ones). Dickens fans will love picking out the numerous references throughout the book, but you do not need to be familiar with his works to appreciate this book.
After all, there is a reason Dickens was so popular--he could tell a story and make you love and/or hate his characters, and Tartt is definitely able to weave that same kind of magic.
David Pittu does a masterful job narrating this behemoth of a book. Considering he's carrying the protagonist's voice from age 15 to....late 20's?, plus so many other voices, accents and dialects, I'm not sure who could have done it better..
As is often the case with these long books, we become habituated and truly hate for them to end.
I'm thirsting to download another epic novel--any recommendations?
Born with earbuds.
The good news:
∙Easy to read, interesting, and thought-provoking.
∙Lots of words for the money, and for the most part, it doesn't drag or seem like filler.
∙Called Dickensonian by many (e.g. Stephen King), the book has many of the elements of other accomplished author's works. Obvious ones are "On the Road", "The Catcher in the Rye", "The Painted Bird", "The Great Gatsby", "The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death", "Dark Places", "Snobs", and "The Kite Runner". Most of the Dicken's comparisons mention "Oliver Twist" or "David Copperfield", but I found that it borrows the most from "Great Expectations" if plot is excluded. It's probably pointless to make comparisons to Tartt's classmate, Bret Easton Ellis, but you can't read "Lunar Park" and escape the kinship.
∙It has a lot of what made "The Secret History" great.
∙The setup is as compelling as any book in recent memory.
∙One of the main character's friends is as developed and memorable as any character in popular fiction.
The bad news:
∙The first couple chapters are tedious. I was relieved when the book finally took off. You'd think the editor didn't get a say.
∙The painting serves somewhat as a MacGuffin, reducing its impact as a near-character in the novel.
∙The 2nd quarter of the book goes on an indulgent interlude. The book is the length of 4 standard novels, so this section could easily have been tightened up with no harm done.
∙Toward the end, the novel's themes are reiterated in narrative exposition as if the author doesn't trust the reader to understand them from the story itself.
∙At least one important character is very static and woefully underdeveloped.
∙It may be personal preference, but I tend to dislike characters that repeatedly behave immorally or amorally, but constantly fret about it. Fine if the character grows over time (or devolves), but frankly, who likes a shit that constantly feels bad that he's such a shit. There's Byronic and there's embryonic. I imagine Tartt might say, "But some people are actually like that". Yes, but perhaps that makes them more bland than a hero or an anti-hero.
Some movie comparisons might be "Closer", "Good Will Hunting", and "Ordinary People" with a little "True Romance" thrown in for feathers.
As an artist and museum professional, I have spent my career encouraging people to view things left behind as more than just "stuff" to be trashed or relegated to flea markets. The objects, beautiful or utilitarian, can reveal much about the lives and vales of the people who created, used, or saved them. They have stories to tell to those who will listen.
Such treasured things don't merely "decorate" this book, rather they inhabit it, anchoring wounded characters to the world as they weather unthinkable loss. In the hands of the author, works of artists and craftsman come to embody memories of the past and hopes for a tolerable future.
Don't worry! This is not a book about dusty furniture and paintings! It is a story about survival, but not the heroic survival of nonfiction tales (a genre I love, by the way). This is a case of fiction being "truer" than nonfiction. Only heroic tales earn nonfiction book contracts! It takes a novelist to plumb the depths of what nonheroic Theo (mixed-up but not evil) does when confronted with tragic misfortune.
The story is told in first-person and the narrator did an excellent job as Theo, while distinctly voicing other characters to indicate dialog.
In my personal life at the moment, I'm adjusting to the loss of my own mother (very different circumstances, of course) and the things she left behind, much of which is imbued with meaning and memory for me. So many acquaintances (my friends know better!) counsel, "It's just stuff -- get rid of it!" Not to me. Those things are tangible connections to the people I've loved and lost.
So if you are a collector who others suspect of being One of Those Hoarders, you'll find justification in this book and possibly better understanding of why inanimate objects mean more to you than to others.
You don't have to be a collector to enjoy this The Goldfinch, but you should enjoy long, thoughtful books. Even action sequences, filtered through the Theo's thoughts, take much longer than they would in a thriller, but I was never tempted to fast-forward. On the contrary, I regret reaching the end and wish I could follow Theo further along his journey to see how he fares.
I was a little unsure about downloading this because I read some negative reviews of the narration but I'm happy to say I couldn't disagree more. I loved the the voices Pittu chose for the characters and how the intonations and rhythms distinguished each one. In fact, I'm intending to search out other books that he's narrated as well as other books by Ms. Tartt. I particularly loved the voices of Boris and Hobie, because I found each so endearing and amusing. Also, some people have complained about the length of the story but I love a good long listen (more for the money!), and this was certainly entertaining throughout. The only thing that was a slight disappointment was that I often saw things coming before they happened, but likely that was intentional foreshadowing on the author's part.
I wanted very much to love this book. I loved Secret History. I'm almost 3/4 of the way through The Goldfinch, trying to hang in there, switching it off in irritation . . . thinking "this is getting such positive reviews; maybe it ends up somewhere better than this," switching it back on . . . and now I'm giving up. It has a great story idea. The opening, particularly once we get to the museum, is very well done. Most of the rest of the book I found incredible repetitive and overwritten. Often the writing is just not good. The author uses seven descriptive terms rather than choosing the best. The protagonist often walks around dazed, confused, blasted out of his mind, stoned out of his mind, and did I mention dazed and confused? It beggars belief that someone this drug- and alcohol-addicted could make it to the age of 27 or 30 able to function in his job and without the people around him noticing. I wanted to send him to rehab. People ask him questions and he repeatedly answers "huh?" "what?" "but –" There is some good in the book, certainly. Boris is a great character and David Pittu does such a good job with him that he keeps talking in my head. Overall I feel David Pittu tries too hard to inflect every single word, and it's exhausting. Let the words speak for themselves. I feel the book is at least half again as long as it should have been. How many detailed and exhaustive scenes of teenage boys getting blasted, stoned and drunk do we need to convey this part of the narrator's life? It just goes on and on. Like my review. So I'll sign off now.
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.
Say something about yourself!
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.
The Goldfinch is well worth the time investment that it takes to complete this book. It's truly entertaining and brilliantly written. I was instantly captivated while I ebbed and flowed right along with Tartt's work. I think the best way to describe this book would be a present day Oliver Twist or Great Expectations. Tartt writes the male perspective extremely well and seems to grow right along with the protagonist. One of my parents died when I was thirteen years old. This book brought similar thoughts and feelings that I had at that age that I had forgotten. The author, if not orphaned herself, is extremely intuitive.
In the Goldfinch, Theo Rekker . the protagonist, narrowly escapes a terrorist attack at 13 years old that takes he lives of many, including his mother. Since she has been his guardian parent, he is now at the mercy of others. From seconds after the incident he meets extraordinary people that form his life over the next 14 years.
Tartt brings in just the right amount of characters and gave each the perfect amount of weight. to the story. She also didn't dwell too much on any point, brought in new characters and events at just the right time, keeping a fascinating pace. Is The Goldfinch perfect..no. The last hour was like listening to Charlie Brown's teacher, for me. I can't understand why this book ended this way. It felt like the book lost its final chapter and moved right into the epilogue. In spite of that - it's still a wonderful book that I am glad I read.
David Pittu's narration is breath taking. Xandra, a female character, speaks and instantly we know that she is a user whom smokes and works in as a cocktail waitress. Each and every voice is crafted in a similar manner. One does not need to wait till the author lays out the charactor like when someone was near death or drunk for Pittu created the picture through voice. I was completely blown away by his performance.
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.
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