The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

May 8, 2014 Art, Contemporary Fiction 41

Greetings my little Bookworms,

In case you’ve been living under a literary rock, Donna Tartt’s newest offering, The Goldfinch, has gotten a ton of buzz. It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and the book blogosphere has been all a-twitter about its greatness. I couldn’t in good conscience keep going along ignoring this book, but… This mofo is 800 pages.

thegoldfinchEver wonder how becoming a book blogger changes your reading habits? For me, it’s made me acutely aware of the HUGE variety of books out there that I want to read. In the past I’d pick up a chunkster on a whim. Heck, I read Les Misérables just for the heck of it. There was no book too long for me. Now though, not only have I saddled myself with obligations (reviews promised to authors and publishers) but I also want to have something to write about. If I can’t plow through at least two books a week, WHAT am I going to tell y’all? Flimsy excuses, I know.

I’m happy to report that I finally read The Goldfinch! Yay me! So here’s the deal. There’s this kid Theo Decker. He’s 13 years old on the day he and his mother take an unplanned detour to an art museum and into the path of a terrorist attack. In the aftermath of the bombing, Theo meets a dying man who he believes encourages him to take home a painting. A priceless work of art, no less. But Theo is 13. He has a nasty concussion. The poor kid picks through the rubble, arrives home after receiving no medical care, and is unceremoniously informed that his mother was killed in the attack. Through a series of unusual events, Theo and the painting embark on a journey… A journey into a life of antiques, drugs, and the seedy underbelly of the art world.

So. What was my verdict? I thought it was a good book, a solid book. It’s unfortunate I went into this AFTER reading all the rave reviews, because my expectations were sky-high. There were a couple of characters that absolutely embedded themselves in my heart,unfortunately, neither of them were Theo. (Boris and Hobie, though, I loved those guys!) Theo kept getting under my skin, particularly toward the end. He goes on a rather self indulgent rant about the philosophical implications of his actions. Shades of gray, master plans, yadda yadda yadda. It’s all well and good, excellent sentiments, but it felt to me like Theo was giving himself an easy out by over rationalizing things.

All in all, I LIKED The Goldfinch a good deal, but I didn’t love it. I’m a little bummed about that fact. I’m also a little bummed that I never could quite get a mental read on Boris’s accent. I kept TRYING to hear the Australian and Russian accents mingling, but it kept going full Russian in my head. Sigh. Has anybody listened to this in audiobook format? Do they do a good job with Boris’s accent?!

Tell me Bookworms. Have you ever felt let down by a book you were expecting to absolutely adore? Ever been surprised by something you didn’t expect to enjoy? 

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41 Responses to “The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt”

  1. Wendy @ Wensend

    I still want to read this book so bad, but like you said: picking up chunksters is not such a good idea, because I’m afraid I’ll leave my readers with no reviews. Maybe when I have more time…

  2. Tanya

    I was let down by this book as well. I knew it wasn’t going to be as good as The Secret History, but all the buzz was so positive that i still had rather high hopes. It was a good book, but it didn’t blow my mind.

  3. Amy

    I’m dying to know how you can read two books a week?! I actually feel like lots of the blogs I read can manage that. Maybe now that schools on its way out I can join thG club! I’m glad you enjoyed The Goldfinch even if it didn’t live up to the hype for you 🙂

    • Words For Worms

      Oh Amy, I definitely didn’t read for pleasure this much in college! I often took classes I knew would have books I wanted to read as homework so I could get some reading in that way, but yeah. It’ll be a lot different once you graduate and get a boring person job :-P. Then you’ll have to get your adventures through literature!

  4. Shannon @ River City Reading

    I think reading this before reading a bunch of the reviews allowed me to really love it (even though there was already tons of buzz around it when I read it). I didn’t love Theo either, but man did I love Boris.

    I totally know what you mean about taking on a chunkster. I try to make sure I’m far enough ahead (read a few smaller books and have a few other posts lined up) before I jump into one), but it’s just weird to even think about those things.

    • Sarah @ Sarah's Book Shelves

      I’m with you, Shannon! I read Goldfinch early on and did love it. I also didn’t have sky high expectations going in and didn’t know that much about it. I even kind of thought I wouldn’t like it b/c I’m not into art. My character love was Hobie 🙂
      And I’m with you on the long ones (although Goldfinch didn’t feel like 800 pages while I was reading…always a good thing!)…I need to have a backlog of books to post before going in (I love Ken Follett and always have to do that before reading one of his books).

  5. Marie Ann Bailey

    Hey, Katie, I haven’t read The Goldfinch and I’m not sure I will. I’ve heard all the rave reviews, but I also read a more critical review by Francine Prose that gave me pause. If Goldfinch was half the length, maybe I’d give it a try, just to make my opinion. When I see it at my local B&N, I often pick it up and read a random page. I’ve never felt like reading more, that is, the story never “grabbed” me, so that’s another reason I haven’t read it. All that said, at some point I did download an audio version (must have been on sale :)). I haven’t listened to it yet because, well, 32 hours ??? But the reviews are generally very good about the narrator and his use of accents. You can listen to a free sample of the audio on I have found that a good narrator can often make a so-so book “read” much better than it is 🙂

  6. Ashley F

    I like big books and I cannot lie!

    This is on my “to read” list but I’ve avoided it for the exact reason that I’m waiting for the hype to die down. Books that have THIS MUCH press, very rarely live up to expectations.

    That being said, I will eventually read it. I must finish my epic Outlander re-read first…..I’m half way through book 1!!! With only a million pages to go before book 8 comes out. I’m going to be all Jamie, all the time for the next few weeks. But I can do it!!!

      • Ashley F

        Seriously. ALL THE TIME. I’m almost done Dragonfly. Should be able to finish tonight, and will probably get through Voyager over the long weekend. The question is do I squeeze in the Lord John Grey books? They weren’t released in plot time order so this is a good opportunity to try it. I need a life. That doesn’t involve Scottish guys. Although if you go to Starz website you can download and print you own “Pocket Jamie”. Google it.

  7. AMB (Koiviolet)

    It’s hard to read a book when expectations are sky-high (that’s how I felt about Rachel Joyce’s second book–I had loved her first one so much!). As for the Goldfinch, which I reviewed in November, I liked it. I don’t think it lived up to the hype, but it’s good. I liked Theo and Boris. What I didn’t like was how long the novel was, the numerous Harry Potter references (I say this as a HP fan!), and how old Theo seemed. With his penchant for writing letters and burning CDs, he seemed older than I am, not younger.

    • Words For Worms

      YES! I’m glad you mentioned how Theo seemed older, because really. I was very surprised when an iPhone first showed up in the narrative because it had a 90s vibe to me.

  8. Melinda

    First of all, I’m impressed that you read Les Miserables. Not because it’s lengthy, but because according to the reviews I’ve read, it takes some doing getting through it. Last chunker I read was The Count of Monte Cristo.

    This book is also on my list of have-to-reads, also because of the rave reviews etc. I’m sorry that you didn’t love it and it didn’t live up to your expectations. I will try to keep all the reviews I’ve read in mind, including yours, when I read it. And keep my expectations a little lower now. Thanks for the informative reviews. Sometimes I can imagine (and hear in my mind) accents, but only if those accents are familiar. I haven’t read Russian/Australian accent mixed, so I would probably also have a hard time hearing it in my mind while reading this one. LOL @ “This mofo is 800 pages” 😀

  9. Lady @ Snail on the Wall

    I’ve been in the middle of drafting a blog post about The Goldfinch for the past week, and it’s not been easy. I’ve read many reviews both positive and negative—and I’ve heard the same sentiments from friends, some of whom just put it down midway through. But I do think the book redeems itself in the last few chapters, where the story all comes together and Theo’s wanderings are given an overall meaning. But I also think the novel could have benefited from an editor who was willing to slice and dice a little more!

  10. kristinshafel

    I downloaded the ebook copy of The Goldfinch when it was on sale for $2. I haven’t had time to tackle it yet! I was thinking maybe this summer. I always tend to temper my expectations anyway when something is way hyped, even when I’m really interested.

  11. Stacy (The Novel Life)

    I love reading a chunkster but like you I’m careful of the time I pick to read one. This is one I’ve wanted to pick up but haven’t gotten to yet. My problem I’ve found is when a book wins a huge prize like the Pulitzer then I never can get into it. For that reason I’ve been wary of picking this one up.

  12. Kelly from

    I was so proud of myself for reading the 600 page East of Eden a couple of weeks ago for exactly that reason -it’s a time commitment during which you can’t cross off any other books! As for The Goldfinch, I had some reservations about it too – one of which being the philosophical musings at the end (the other being his age. Did he ACT like a 13 year old to you? And the other being those final action-movie-like scenes. Completely unbelievable.) Don’t feel bad about not loving it. we’re allowed to be critical – that’s the whole point of a review. And I’d rather read an honest take than another superlative.

    • Words For Worms

      Theo’s age was confusing to me, he seemed like an old soul. I don’t mind being critical, I’m just disappointed because I’d expected to love it. Eh. Live and learn. Then read something new. Circle of bookish life and all.

  13. Jenny @ Reading the End

    Expectations are everything. I went into The Goldfinch expecting absolutely nothing, because I disliked Donna Tartt’s second book so much. If I’d had high expectations to start with, I’d have enjoyed it less — I don’t think it’s as monumental as some people have found it, and I don’t think it’s nearly as good as her first novel. My loyalty to The Secret History is UNWAVERING FOREVER. :p

  14. Jennine G.

    The Fault in Our Stars was a let down for me. I didn’t feel bad for either of them and didn’t cry at all. It makes me sound heartless, but there was no emotional connection to either character for me. However, what I’ve seen of previews makes me excited for the movie…it’s looking promising.

    I really liked The Goldfinch, but I agree about the end. It gets weird and that rant is just blah.

    • Words For Worms

      I loved The Fault in Our Stars, but it certainly wasn’t all THAT hyped back when I read it. I’m glad, that expectation level really makes for a rough fall.

  15. Sarah @ Sarah's Book Shelves

    I think it’s so hard going into a book knowing so much about it in advance…I prefer going in a little more blind (and I did with The Goldfinch, which I loved). However, as you said, it was pretty hard to go in blind on this one, especially being in the book world.

    As to your question, YES! I expected to 100% love Frog Music and, while I did end up liking it, it took me at least 75 pages to get into it and I also wasn’t head over heels for it like some people were. That’s what’s so great about books – tastes are so personal and can vary so much!

    • Words For Worms

      Sigh. I love being head over heels for a book. I think that high is part of why I keep reading… The falling in love over and over is addictive.

  16. Sarah Says Read

    I also also kind of afraid of chunksters now (except for Outlander, OBVS), and this the hype around this book has also scared me… It’s rare that the hype is all worth it, ya know? I have this because I found it for only $4 at a used bookstore, but I don’t know if I’ll get around to it, or give it away… Hmph.

  17. Katie @ Doing Dewey

    I’ve had exactly the same change in my reading habits since starting blogging! I’m not intimidated by chunksters in terms of what I think I’ll enjoy reading, but what about the blog? How will I ever keep up if I spend two weeks reading the same book? Perhaps I’ll try to fit in a chunkster over the holidays and take a blogging hiatus 🙂 I’m sorry you didn’t like this as much as you expected to! When I started The City and The City, I could tell that I was expecting it to blow my mind because of the great reviews I’d read, but in that case at least, I think I reined in my expectations enough that I wasn’t disappointed with it. Hype can be a dangerous thing though!

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