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Editorial Reviews

Editors Select, October 2013 - It's already been an amazing season for literary fiction - you can't go wrong with a new Jhumpa Lahiri novel, and Dave Eggers and Amy Tan will also be hitting our virtual shelves soon - but Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is truly one of the most anticipated books of the fall. I confess that I haven't been able to dig into it yet, but the early reviews I'm hearing from trusted colleagues have moved The Goldfinch to the top of my listening list. Sure it's long (ahem, credit-worthy), but the commitment is worth it, with the same intense suspense and character development that made The Secret History, Tartt's debut, a modern classic. —Diana D., Audible Editor

Publisher's Summary

Audie Award Winner, Solo Narration - Male, 2014

Audie Award Winner, Literary Fiction, 2014

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

Critic Reviews

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)

What members say

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What a slog

I slogged through the whole book hoping that I would begin to appreciate the story but I'm afraid I never did. Donna Tartt just doesn't trust her readers. She writes down to them - repeating the same themes over and over, just in case we didn't get it the first, second, or third time. Had she let her story speak for itself, instead of insisting on telling us what we were suppose to take away from it, I believe this would have been a much better book.

143 of 171 people found this review helpful

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  • Lesley
  • Seattle, WA, United States
  • 11-04-13

A lot bigger than one little finch

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.

68 of 83 people found this review helpful

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Listening to this was like hearing every frame of a long movie, in excruciating detail described along with totally irrelevant conversations. The conversations of a group of travelers in front of him getting off the plane, the menu in a coffee house, the details of an airline ticket. And on top of it the narratormakes every five words into a melodramatic, mystery thriller cadence for 32 hours. And his voice for every female character made me cringe. The basic story was interesting, but could have been written in two thirds the words.It was as though every scene was described in two or three ways because the writer couldn't choose which one to use.
Aside from that, I found the character unsympathetic, though I really wanted to care for him, given the hard luck he had.
I really struggled to finish this.

115 of 142 people found this review helpful

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Art has a language of its own

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.

82 of 102 people found this review helpful

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Oh my head hurts, too many words

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".

77 of 96 people found this review helpful

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  • cristina
  • Somerville, MA, United States
  • 12-09-13

Six stars until the very end.

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).

21 of 26 people found this review helpful

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A wonderful, involved,detailed narrative

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 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!

32 of 41 people found this review helpful

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Ugh, not for me!

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

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.

What was most disappointing about Donna Tartt’s story?

The main character, come on Theo, get it together.

Would you be willing to try another one of David Pittu’s performances?

Yes, definitely, as long as he isn't using a Russian accent.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointment and frustration...and a healthy dose of boredom.

Any additional comments?

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.

18 of 23 people found this review helpful

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  • Susan
  • Baudette, MN, United States
  • 11-06-13

A modern-day "Great Expectations" of sorts.

Would you consider the audio edition of The Goldfinch to be better than the print version?

The narrator gives life to the main character. His voice is both innocent and worldly.

What other book might you compare The Goldfinch to and why?

Great Expectations

Which character – as performed by David Pittu – was your favorite?

Theo Decker the main character is a tragic hero, but the reader cannot help but identify with his foibles.

If you could take any character from The Goldfinch out to dinner, who would it be and why?

I would love to have Boris as a dinner companion because of his voracious and indomitable appetite for life.

Any additional comments?

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.

18 of 23 people found this review helpful

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All the Heart Eyes

What I'd heard was: "Dickensian!" "Art theft!" I was hardly prepared for a book so beautiful, mysterious, dark and strange; one that made me laugh and ache.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful