Sunday, 6 July 2014

Book Review: The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt

You may wonder if this is a mirage - if you're even reading - because it's basically been a year since I last posted on my blog - BUT, my third and FINAL year of Uni got in the way. I had an amazing time - but the degree is over and life must begin.... But luckily for me, my desired career (in publishing... and hopefully one day as an author myself) means that books are my life... So, here is a review... And expect many as this lifestyle/formerly fashion blog transmutes into a full time lifestyle/book blog!


The Guardian has asked the question 'Is this the year of The Goldfinch?' And, I think I can see why.

I bought the book back in November. My father called me up while I was sleeping in late, the typical student life (oh student life, I miss you), on a Monday - 'Sara, Donna Tartt is speaking at the Union - get tickets!'

I murmured yes, in my haze of sleep, and on waking I realised I had no idea who Donna Tartt was. I called my dad back, and he sent me a link to the Meet the Author interview with her on the BBC. She looked edgy and cool - and I decided I would go to the Cambridge Literary Festival event, if only for some style tips. I bought her book 'The Little Friend' and hoped to read it in time, so that if I got a chance to speak to her I could act clued up and fan-girly. But unfortunately I didn't manage it, and it remains unopened. But when they day came, I took it with me to get it signed anyway.

Donna Tartt is intelligent, funny and charismatic. And I was convinced enough by her reading to spend £20 on 'The Goldfinch' to get it signed ("Darn - I should have bought it in Waterstones earlier and got that extra five pounds off!"). I managed to get it signed, awkwardly pretending to be a fan - but failing - and instead asking her a random question about characterisation. She saw through my facade and signed it only 'Donna Tartt' whereas the Number One Fan before me got 'All the best, Donna Tartt' - but I shrugged it off, fair enough.

Being Cambridge, a member of the audience asked Tartt - 'were you influenced by Homer's Odyssey because I can see many similarities'. Obviously this enthusiastic Tartt fan knew that Tartt studied Classics at University - and Tartt politely replied - 'not consciously, but I can see why you could think that'. But the member of the audience seemed to get the wrong end of the stick, in my opinion. This book is not meant to be 'literary' (see: Vanity or a copy of any Ancient Greek classics - or THE Ancient Greek classic - but a commercial text, first and foremost. Any connection to anything more intellectual is to add to the tone rather than the genre. There are many philosophical parts in the text, none more so than the final paragraph, where Tartt's own voice rings through loud and clear, muffling that of the narrator - but this is the novel's charm, its dual reality within the fiction.

The central motif of the novel, Fabritius' Goldfinch, seems to confuse readers in deciphering the novel's 'aim'. I can see that perhaps it started out as an Art History essay by Tartt and then transformed into a novel, but really it has become a commercial, and highly popular novel and for good reason. At points I questioned Tartt's depth of character (so maybe she viewed the character question I'd asked her as a subtle insult), but as I was drawn in by the plot, the characters began to make sense - and they became complex because of this. The main character, Theo, begins as a simple teenage boy, but following personal tragedies he quickly changes along with his circumstances and friendships. And it may seem far fetched, but it could not be more realistic, in my opinion. Theo changes often (but remains the same... the ultimate cliche) which at first baffles the reader, but when we are baffled, we understand that Theo himself is baffled at this rapid change of Fortune and, consequently, character.

Donna Tartt has been described as a perfectionist - but there was one tiny detail that she forgot to edit out before writing, and sticking with, its opposite which niggled at me all the way through. I shan't tell you what it is, in case it niggles at you throughout your reading of it (and you must read it!!). But perhaps you're not as obsessive about such things as me... but I'll leave it out for now.

I won't give you any plot spoilers, I'm sure there are many out there on the internet as it is, but I will say simply that I didn't want the book to end. I could put it down, yes! Because some parts were so emotionally charged it was a relief to take a break from it every so often. That's the beauty of the form of the novel, and Tartt takes full advantage of this, holding nothing back in her writing of the tale. But, what is perhaps more telling of my admiration of this novel, I PAUSED the Hunger Games: Catching Fire film JUST TO READ THE BOOK SOME MORE. Only for five minutes, admittedly, but surely that's the prime sign of a great novel?

(I'm a new Hunger Games convert - previously I had refused to watch the films or read the books in case they were anything like the addictive but awful Twilight novels and films - but IT IS AMAZING AND I CAN'T WAIT FOR THE NEXT FILM ... OH WHY OH WHY DO I HAVE TO WAIT? I WILL HAVE TO READ THE BOOKS AGAIN TO QUENCH MY HUNGER- but anyway, I digress).

At 771 pages, you'd think I'd get bored - but no. Not bored. Never. It's a great read, and perfect for Summer, or Winter. Or Spring... Or even Autumn. So read it, I implore you.


  1. Welcome back :) I've literally just got back from town and I very nearly bought this in Waterstones. Wish I had now!
    Mel x

  2. Definitely read it at some point :) it's wonderful! Xxx