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Book Review: The Goldfinch

Title: The Goldfinch
Author: Donna Tartt
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5
Reviewer: Julia

It took me a while before finally picking up the book. It took me another shorter but still long while before actually finishing it. I was hesitating at first because of it's great size and the length of the writing (some paragraphs or sentences can stretch for quite some time). When I finally had started the book, it took me a while because I had first slowed down during parts in which the main character and narrator, Theo Decker, was feeling low in spirit due to the death of his mother. At times the long descriptions and sections describing his sadness were a bit too much. The other reason why it took me some time to finish the book (about a month) was because it was so long, my paperback copy of it being a whopping 962 pages long. So I guess what you can conclude is that you need a sort of tolerance and patience to be able to get through this book.

But if you are able to push through it, I believe that you would find that you very much enjoyed it.

The story starts out when Theo is in the eighth grade, and ends in his adulthood (which would partially explain the great length of the book). He had gotten in trouble at school, and was going to a meeting at the school to discuss this. His mother was to go with him. But before going, they decide to see the fairly new exhibit at the art museum, for his mother loved art. It was there that the accident happened. He survived. His mother did not. It was this particular day that had lead him down a lonely and darker path, not only because he had walked out of the museum alive and his mother did not, but also because of what he had - in his state of confusion, fear, and grief - walked out with: a small painting of a goldfinch that was in the exhibit.

Scared of what might happen if he were to tell anyone that he possessed the painting thought to be destroyed, many days pass by until he is an adult, still holding his dangerous secret. And dangerous it proves to be.

While Tartt's long writing style was what made it difficult to finish the book, it is something that I thoroughly enjoyed. There are certain writing styles that make me instantly love a book, that make a piece of writing intensely beautiful, ones that I can't just help but randomly mouth or read aloud because it's just too good, and that's what Tartt's writing style was for me. Phrases such as "my heart scrambled and floundered at even the most innocent noises" and "a dirty winter grayness weighing like stone" caught both my attention and my love, only further dragging me into the book.

Someone I discussed the book with briefly online said that, for them, the plot was lagging, and their interest was only peaked when it was already too late. In their words, the author had already "lost" them when the interesting point came. I have actually seen several people in the bookstagram community say similar things; that the writing was too much or the plot wasn't enough, but quite honestly I don't see how it could be this way. Sure: if you are looking for an action-filled plot, then this isn't your book. But, please, if you were to look away for a bit from the physical things happening in the book, you would see the emotional and inner problems and events going on for not only Theo but all of the characters.

There's the emotions Theo is feeling when he loses his mother, and the troubled ones he feels towards his father, and the shock that comes with all of the sudden changes. There's the idea of friendship found and alive despite everything going on, and there's the thought of struggling that unites two together.

And not only were these ideas and phrases written so beautifully, but the characters as well. Even the characters that I found myself not liking I couldn't help but appreciate that, at least, Tartt had written them well.

Another thing I suppose I must add (although it might repel some away) is a warning of some of the events that occur in the book. Let me remind you that this is a book about a boy deeply affected by a tragic event and about a man, the same as the boy but now grown up, who can never quite escape the events of his past. It can be a bit dark at some points (possibly not in the way that you might be thinking). What I'm trying to say (in a casual way that I'm failing to do) is that the usage of drugs is done by the characters in the book. And, of course, with Tartt's style, descriptions of there. Like I said earlier, you need a sort of tolerance for this book, some parts more than others.

But if you would only give it a chance, you would find yourself reading a work similar to the main piece of art in the book (Carel Fabritius' The Goldfinch): not only in the sense that it is a work of art, but also because of what it is. A character in the book once described the goldfinch in the painting as something that looks like one thing from afar, but once you step closer you realize that it is a few raw brushstrokes. The book is one big work of writing, but is actually composed of a few simple themes and ideas; it is simply about a boy, his lost mother, what he's learned in his life, and one small yet life-changing work of art.


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