Book Review: “The Goldfinch” (plus general Donna Tartt gushing)

The time…… has come.

I LOVE THIS BOOK!!! Yet I can confidently say it is not for everyone. Seem counterintuitive? Well, I have a two word answer for you: Donna. Tartt.

Donna Tartt, I can confidently say, is my favorite modern author. But her writing is some of the most polarizing I’ve ever seen; people either love it or hate it. The book this seems truest for is The Little Friend, which seems like it’s either everyone’s favorite Tartt book or their least favorite. I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t read it yet (sorry, Donna). That one came out the year I was born, 2002, but her earliest book came out in ‘92. The Secret History was my first Tartt book, but it’s been a while since I’ve read it. It’s still one of my favorites though! I originally had borrowed it from a friend, but I recently bought my own copy. Damn you, “buy 2 get 1 free” sales. However I got the book, I’ll probably revisit it for it’s own review soon. But we are here for one thing and one thing only: the light of my life, the brick I carried with me for what felt like months… Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch.

This book is beautiful. Tartt has such a mastery of characters, she has perfected the tightrope walk of making your characters painfully real, yet still colorful and memorable enough to be compelling as you read. One special thing about their facets is that you don’t even see all of them. Our narrator, Theodore Decker, even reflects on this a few times. He has a limited perspective and he knows it just well enough for the reader to know it, too. Through Theo, hating any of these characters feels like hating real people. Rather than with brazen disdain, you hate them guiltily and quietly, knowing they have motivations and dreams and habits that you will never truly understand. That’s why this book isn’t boring, despite the brunt of its story simply being whatever the protagonist is doing at any certain point in his life. The characters are so compelling, Tartt can leave the dramatic plot at the core of The Secret History. This book can just be a boy and his painting, keeping the reader enthralled by the slow unraveling of the characters and tantalized by Tartt’s embracing of the unknown, realistically writing a limited narrator in a way that few authors, eager to explain the darkest recesses of their planning, do.

I said before that Donna Tartt’s writing is polarizing. Even The Goldfinch, published in 2013, is the same. Tartt writes absolutely gorgeously. Her descriptions are complex, and her writing is an incredibly rich layering of literary device on literary device, I feel like I could read The Goldfinch over and over and recognize a new clever inclusion each time. That would take me ages though. Tartt’s works are wonderfully written, but incredibly dense (and, in the Goldfinch’s case, incredibly lengthy) masterpieces that take about ten years each to publish. So going off of that, her next book is set to come out in 2023. I’m counting down the days.

Like I said before, I would not recommend this book for everyone, no matter how dearly I love it. Donna Tartt is a refreshingly literary writer to me, but not everyone is looking for that. For fans of literature like that of the Romantic period, this book is perfect. I love Tartt for many of the same reasons I love those comparatively older authors (shoutout to my boy Henry James). But some people read contemporary works to get away from that kind of writing, so of course they won’t be fans of Tartt’s work. So, if you like classical literary writing and are looking for a major commitment, The Goldfinch is perfect for you. But if you stick to more contemporary stuff, I don’t blame you! Love what you love! But that will not be The Goldfinch, I can all but promise you. On the other hand, if you know anyone who might like it, The Goldfinch may be a good gift for someone if you ever forget a birthday.

I’ll be seeing the film adaptation the night after it comes out, which will be a week for tomorrow. (I work on the actual release night, which pains me deeply. And in a bookstore nonetheless.) I’m so excited!! I’ll post again about what I think of the film. Donna Tartt, you have not seen the last of me.

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