Worst. Book. Ever. – If I write that and nothing else about Donna Tartt‘s The Goldfinch, it would be the most honest, if not shortest, review I’ve ever done. But because I’m feeling particularly snarky today and don’t really have anything to do, I will elaborate on why the novel was not to my liking.
The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer-Prize winning novel, is about a boy whose life changed for the worse after the death of his mother in a horrible museum bombing. Disoriented and confused from the blast, Theo walks away from the rubble of the explosion with more than just his life.
After the tragic incident, with no living relatives nearby, Theo winds up living with the family of his wealthy friend before being taken back by his father who had earlier ran off and abandoned him and his mother.
From New York, Theo is taken by his father and girlfriend to live with them in Las Vegas. Theo’s father, a washed up character actor in the 80’s prone to substance abuse was not exactly the best kind of guardian for a 13-year-old boy who was desperately in need of some love and attention. At school, Theo befriends a strange, Russian boy who is just as neglected and lost as he was. Without supervision from concerned parents, Boris and Theo spend their days in a haze brought on by alcohol and drugs.
After a few dodgy years in Vegas boozing and getting high, another tragic event forces Theo to return to New York, where he seeks out Hobie, an acquaintance he met before leaving Las Vegas who was also affected by the museum bombing. Hobie, an antiques restorer and part owner of an antiques shop takes on Theo as his ward and educates him in the antiques and restoration business.
Eight years later, Theo grows up to become an antiques dealer selling mostly fakes at exuberant prices to unsuspecting buyers who don’t know any better. Living a life of lies and secrets, Theo gets caught up in a dangerous world of art thieves, blackmailers, drug addicts, and murderers.
If it weren’t already taken, Donna Tartt could have titled her novel A Series of Unfortunate Events, because that is exactly what it is. A long, dragging series of unfortunate events in the life of Theo Decker, a boy who blames his boozing and drug-taking, lying, cheating and bad decisions to the death of his mother.
The book starts out with a 13-year-old Theo and ends with him as a 24-year-old young man, and while reading the book, it feels like he describes every minute of every day of the next 11 years. Most of the book consists mostly of detailed descriptions of every little thing and every little event, and Theo’s never-ending rants, thoughts, and ramblings. The book dragged on and on and on and on….
Finally at about page 530, something slightly interesting happens, only to be followed by more detailed descriptions, endless rants, and the repetitive inner workings of Theo’s addled mind.
It took me a month to read this book, and when I finished, I felt the exhaustion brought on by forcing myself to finish a book that was so utterly uninteresting and unenjoyable (if that’s even a word).
Serves me right though. After reading A Secret History, I swore I would never read another novel written by Donna Tartt, and I was fairly successful in ignoring The Goldfinch. That is until it won the Pulitzer Prize in 2014. I guess from my experience with Pulitzer-winning novels, I felt confident that The Goldfinch would be a good, if not, enjoyable book. But once again, like in A Secret History, I found myself reading about young seemingly intelligent people doing drugs, drinking alcohol, and finding themselves in very unrealistic situations.
Next time, I’m going to trust my instincts to stay away from certain books and authors, Pulitzer Prize or Booker Prize be damned!
The Goldfinch (2013) – Donna Tartt
Little Brown. 771 pages
Personal rating: 1/5