Author: Donna Tartt
Length: 32.5 hours
Narrator: David Pittu
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Original Publication Date: 2013
Genre(s): Fiction, Contemporary
“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.”
That morning, Theo Decker thought his biggest worry was being suspended from school. Another big worry—that his teacher had somehow discovered what Theo and his friend sometimes got into after school. What Theo did not worry about was the impromptu visit to the art museum, where an explosion killed Theo’s mother and many other people. But Theo survived, somehow, and what ensues afterwards—joy, pain, sorrow, friendship, violence, danger, love, lies, drugs, more death—somehow all revolves around a single painting: The Goldfinch.
I started listening to this audiobook two weeks ago, having never heard of it until seeing a film trailer. A Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Goldfinch is not something I would have ever read without the film adaptation prompting me to do so. Not only was the synopsis uninteresting to me, but 700+ pages??? At my age??? I don’t have that kind of attention span, especially for books I’m not even interested in. But the film looked so promising and captivating that I thought I might give the audiobook a try, and I’m so glad I did.
At thirty-two and a half hours, this is the longest audiobook I’ve ever listened to. I listened to it at work, at home, even on solo drives to and from Raising Cane’s (an hour round trip) to bring my girlfriend her favorite dinner. I spent two weeks with Theo’s story, and it feels…odd, now that I’m finished.
Told in first-person POV, the novel is broken up into five parts, spanning a wide range of Theo’s life. At the start of the novel, Theo is thirteen years old. The beginning of the novel is probably the most interesting and emotional part of the story. Reading about the explosion and how Theo escapes, as well as the aftermath of all that, is raw with so many emotions—sadness and fear and desperation. This intro hooked me and never let me go.
The rest of the novel is a whirlwind—ups and downs that I can’t go into without spoiling the story. It’s very much a novel you need to read if you want to know anything more. You follow Theo all over the place, both physically and mentally, and it’s a wild ride. Honestly, I didn’t feel bored until maybe 60 or 70% through, and that only lasted a short while before I was interested and enjoying it again.
The novel is detailed. (Duh—it’s over 700 pages.) But I think it has a right to be so. We don’t just read about Theo; we fall inside Theo’s head and see through his eyes. You won’t always like Theo—in fact, you’ll probably dislike him for the most part—but you can understand and sympathize with him despite it all, and that’s what’s important. Like Boris says, there’s no black-and-white “good and evil,” no matter how hard Theo wants to pretend there is. Theo is a complex character, and even when you don’t like him, the novel is still enjoyable. Because the writing is wonderful, and the story is interesting. Donna Tartt wrote this novel so fantastically, which is why the attention to detail never feels boring or overdone, only necessary to understand the story and characters. It’s a hard novel to read at times (especially if you don’t like reading about drugs—seriously, don’t read this if you can’t handle drug use), but it’s worth it.
I didn’t have any major issues with this novel. The breaks in chapters were a little weird and abrupt, but other than that, I was rapt with it. I am so, so excited to see the film. It’ll be a long one—two and a half hours—so I’m excited to see what all they can fit into that time. I have high hopes. I’ll be sure to let you know what I think.
If you haven’t read The Goldfinch, you should. I can see why it won a Pulitzer. Also, to steal a bit from Rick Riordan’s Goodreads review of this novel: please, read it if only to know Boris, the greatest character in the history of literature.
–“A great sorrow, and one that I am only beginning to understand: we don’t get to choose our own hearts. We can’t make ourselves want what’s good for us or what’s good for other people. We don’t get to choose the people we are.”
— “That life – whatever else it is – is short. That fate is cruel but maybe not random. That Nature (meaning Death) always wins but that doesn’t mean we have to bow and grovel to it. That maybe even if we’re not always so glad to be here, it’s our task to immerse ourselves anyway: wade straight through it, right through the cesspool, while keeping eyes and hearts open. And in the midst of our dying, as we rise from the organic and sink back ignominiously into the organic, it is a glory and a privilege to love what Death doesn’t touch.”