Book Review: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

TheGoldfinchCoverOfficial Synopsis from Goodreads: It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-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 combines vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher’s calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Literary Fiction
Setting: New York City, Las Vegas, & Amsterdam
My Copy Came From: I purchased a used hardcover from a local library sale.

*** this post contains affiliate links ***

Review: Well written, if a bit long, with vibrant, memorable characters. I loved it! The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is quite the read! It’s very long (my copy was 771 pages), and very, very wordy. At times the wordiness was way too much, but most of the time I thought the slow build and attention to the characters was worth the time and effort.

Everything was lost, I had fallen off the map: the disorientation of being in the wrong apartment, with the wrong family, was wearing me down, so I felt groggy and punch-drunk, weepy almost, like an interrogated prisoner prevented from sleeping for days. Over and over, I kept thinking I’ve got to go home and then, for the millionth time, I can’t.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot, as I honestly didn’t know much about it going in, just that it was about a painting, and that really worked for me. It lent an air of mystery about the book that I’m not sure I would’ve had had I known more about the plot and the characters.

I will say one thing about the plot that needs to be said. There is a lot of drug use in this book! It is throughout the whole read, so there is definitely a Content Warning for drug use here.

And maybe I was coping awfully well, I don’t know. Certainly I wasn’t howling aloud or punching my fist through windows or doing any of the things I imagined people might do who felt as I did. But sometimes, unexpectedly, grief pounded over me in waves that left me gasping; and when the waves washed back, I found myself looking out over a brackish wreck which was illumined in a light so lucid, so heartsick and empty, that I could hardly remember that the world had ever been anything but dead.

There is a focus on grief, as Theo, our main character, grieves the loss of his mother. It was powerful and strong, and while The Goldfinch gets a bit preachy about life at the end (it IS a Pulitzer Prize winner after all!), it is a well-written story with vibrant, memorable characters. From the cold Mrs. Barbour, to the endearingly frustrating Boris, to the kindly Hobie, and the haunted Theo, The Goldfinch draws the reader in and demands attention. I loved it and can’t wait to see the movie!

Bottom Line: Beautiful and haunting, but a bit too wordy.


LINKS ***the Amazon link is an affiliate link which means I receive a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase***


Have you read The Goldfinch? Did you enjoy the novel or find it too long and wordy? Have you seen the movie? Is it an accurate representation of the book?


16 thoughts on “Book Review: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

    1. So much of the book was internal and I think that would be part of the challenge in adapting this particular read to the screen. You make a good point in your movie review about how something can be an accurate portrayal but also miss the heart of the story.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I just had to double check the punctuation just to be sure I didn’t miss anything! 🙂 And no, I transcribed it as it was in my copy.
      I found the writing to feel more “stream of consciousness” which, I’ve noticed tends to do different things with punctuation. When I read I “hear” the book and also “see” the action (like a movie in my head), so I didn’t notice the punctuation so much – I went with the feel and rhythm of the words, which sometimes were a bit too much! I definitely think that if the selected quotes bother you then for sure the rest of the book would as well!


        1. What bothers me is when quotation marks are left out 🙂 I recently read Rules of Civility by Amor Towles and he used a dash instead of quotation marks and it took me a bit to get into that one!


          1. I’ve noticed a that Roddy Doyle (Irish) and Irvine Welsh (Scottish) both leave out quote marks, and it drives me bonkers because I love their writing. I’m currently reading a book called Mostly Dead Things in which the dialogue in flashbacks is italicized instead of quoted. It took me too long to realize these were not inner thoughts, but spoke aloud.

            Liked by 1 person

  1. I loved it too – until the preachy end, which sort of killed it for me. (If you liked it, you should check out The Secret History, which was Tartt’s first book, and is even better, if a bit darker, than The Goldfinch.)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The secret history is one of my favourite reads of the year. I loved it so so so much. I’ve heard a lot about the goldfinch as well but the number of pages intimidate me! I’m glad to know you liked it! Great review ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! 🙂 I’ve heard such great things about The Secret History – I can’t wait to read that one!
      Even though The Goldfinch is a bit too long, I kept wanting to read it and loved the focus on the characters.

      Liked by 1 person

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