The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – Book Review

Title: The Goldfinch

Author: Donna Tartt

Rating: 5/5

Genre: Bildungsroman, Fiction, Adult Fiction, Crime Novel, Epic Fiction

“You can look at a picture for a week and never think of it again. You can also look at a picture for a second and think of it all your life”

As I’ve mentioned before, Donna Tartt is one of my favourite authors. She not only crafts intriguing plots, characters and situations, but she never seems to disappoint with the endings to her novels. You, as a reader, feel very satisfied when you close that book, but it never seems to leave you. You find yourself going off into daydreams about the themes and the tartt_thegoldfinch
characters. And that, to me, is the mark of a good author. To leave you wanting more.

Now, interestingly enough, The Goldfinch was my first introduction to Tartt’s work, but has been the last one I’ve read. I found a review and an excerpt of the story long before I bought any of the books, and I loved the writing style so much, I immediately took myself off to Waterstones and purchased everything together. But after reading and loving The Secret History and The Little Friend, I took it upon myself to read it over the festive period. And at nearly 800 pages, it certainly took up my time. But what a story. Within the pages, I found myself sucked into the world of art thievery, bildungsroman plot devices, furniture crafting, museum tours, strolls through Las Vegas and Amsterdam, desired love, guilty consciousness and lasting friendships.

After a tragic accident and subequent death of his devoted mother, the reader meets Theo Decker as he stands abandoned in New York. His father has deserted him, the wealthy family who takes him in are concerned for his wellbeing, and his classmates have no idea how to speak or comfort him. Isolated within himself, Theo draws comfort and warmth from the only thing he has left of his mother’s memory and self – a tiny, priceless and exquisite painting that he stole from the gallery. The reader follows Theo as he is moved from the bustling New York to the loud and garish lights of Las Vegas and we observe as Theo develops and experiments with drugs, alcohol and love for the first time; each one proving to be as addictive and intoxicating as the last.

However, beyond this, the criminal underground beckons, and the audience watches Theo has to conquer the demons which he has held on for so long, along with the web of wild goose chases and false ends in which Theo has become entangled in.

As you can see, this novel follows Theo as he matures from a scrawny and not very worldly child into a complex and hardened adult. We see how he interacts with characters of different ages and different walks of life, along with the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ sides of humanity.

I read somewhere, on more than one occasion, that The Goldfinch has been compared to a Dickensian novel, and I can definitely see why from reading it now as the novel follows one individual’s lifespan, and how his actions as a youth impacts on his later life. He also comes against conflict, love, deception and crime and also experiences what it is like to be at the 8fdb0378-7a0a-44e0-a19c-5cfc2c71ddf5_het-puttertje-van-carel-fabritiusbottom of the ladder as well as the top. He proves a calming and familiar presence against others, and his point-of-view is never far away. This is a novel of grandeur, and just the immense scale of the book itself gives this away. We do get transported to different parts of the world, and the detail that Tartt has included is something to be marveled at. When Theo walks down dusty streets with the sun beating off his brow, we feel that heat on ourself. When Theo is experiencing his first acid high, we ourselves can feel delirious.

It really is a sensory overload.

I have always marvelled at the ways in which Tartt creates characters. Like with The Secret History’s Richard, it is always the supporting characters which provide the more interesting reading, and the main character is something they can react against.

The Secret History had Henry, this novel has Boris. Boris is simply a mixture of chaos, alcohol and strong principles. He is certainly the most fun character to read in the entire novel, and his and Theo’s relationship is something that is born of equal circumstance and the term of ‘Fuck it’.
Against Boris’s absolute insanity, the darling Hobie is another one which you cannot help but love. He’s distant when he needs to be, but so passionate and light, he is the perfect tonic against Boris’s special brand of darkness.
Also, the dynamic between Theo and the main female character of Pippa is one to be envied. It is something that cannot be written without the experience of having those particular feelings yourself. It’s love, compassion, companionship and adoration.

All-in-all, this book is a gem. Brilliantly crafted and expertly written, this book is a slow-burning literary giant.With this story, we as readers are lucky enough to experience two stories – the complete disintergration of Theo’s life after his mothers death, alongside the intricate and dangerous world of art thievery and crime. And as this book won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, it clearly isn’t just this book blogger who thinks this book is something to be marvelled at.


To buy this book – Waterstones/Amazon




The Secret History by Donna Tartt – Book Review

Title: The Secret History

Author: Donna Tartt

Rating: 5/5

Genres: Whydunnit, Adult Fiction, Crime Fiction, Inverted Detective Novel

“Does such a thing as ‘the fatal flaw,’ that showy dark crack running down the middle of a life, exist outside literature? I used to think it didn’t. Now I think it does. And I think that mine is this: a morbid longing for the picturesque at all costs.”

When people to ask me, an English graduate and self-confessed bibliophile, ‘so what is your favourite book?’, it sends my mind reeling. Do I pick from my childhood loves of Harry Potter, or do I go to my Gothic favourites of Dracula or Wuthering Heights, or do I even bring out the doorstopper of a novel, Gone with the Wind? It honestly is one of the hardest questions I’ve ever had to answer. But I do usually narrow it down to a few select books, and have justified reasons for so. And within this, Donna Tartt’s The Secret History is always there.

Now known as a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and with massive international acclaim, Tartt and her The Secret History is not an unknown book or author, and nor is it one that quietly unappreciated. As a debut novel, and written in 1992, The Secret History had an initial print run of 75,000 copies (which is a big deal, considering the usual print run is 10,000) and it instantly became a best-seller. In her literary life, Tartt has only written three fictional books, yet she has amassed a huge following, and whenever I read her books, I find myself feeling so unbelievably small when you experience the genius way she crafts sentences and plots.

So, through this brilliantly more-ish and highly addictive tale, the reader meets Richard Papen, as he gives the recollections of his time as a freshman in an imposing and highly prestigious college in Vermont. And whilst in this college, Richard quickly falls under the allure of the reclusive and almost other-worldly Classics students, and quickly becomes friends with them all. But as he falls further into the group, and the complexities that they all have, Richard finds himself tangled up in a web of terrifying crime, ancient Grecian traditions, and tragic circumstance which ultimately ends up in the murder of one of the group members by the rest of them.

Labelled as more of a ‘whydunit’ rather than a ‘who’, the novel explores the ideas of increasing anxieties, builds up of tensions, unavoidable circumstances and the panic that comes with guilt. So this novel could happily run with detective fiction anytime, and as it is written in such an excellent way, it really gives the reader the sense of actually being there, committing the crime and reaping the consequences. As the text deals with a very Classics-heavy theme, this novel certainly has elements of a ‘Greek tragedy’ to it. With whole unavoidable circumstances, hamartia, fatal flaws and an overall ‘tragic’ element, the ancient Grecian world does impact on the text. And I, as a once-Classics student, really appreciated it. But this novel can be easily read by any person who is hungry for a satisfying and stimulating read. The novel also would appeal to readers who like the ‘campus’ genre of fiction, as the college that they all attend is beautifully described, and makes you wish you could see Vermont throughout the seasons.

Through her writing, Tartt has really reached down to the subconscious of the human mind and has, therefore, made characters so unique and realistic that you cannot help picturing and drawing from them. With the complex nature of Henry – who is, by far, my most favourite character – Tartt has given him enough depth, personality and mystery to make him a puzzle. And even with Richard, who as the protagonist and newcomer to the group could seem a little flat compared to the rest of the students, he seems realistic, and gives the reader an outsider view on the strange group of students that he becomes friends with.

The novel doesn’t seem to drag, but tease the audience with little tidbits here and there, and makes the ending well-done and highly satisfying. This text works brilliantly as a stand-alone piece of work, and there isn’t necessarily anything else Tartt could have done to make it better. Easily labelled as a modern classic, Tartt is really an author to read and watch out for. I know that I am highly anticipating the next novel.


To buy the book – Waterstones