In Review: The Goldfinch

Admittedly, I’m still in a book hangover because of The Goldfinch. So don’t count on me to have anything but glowing reviews of this book. Yes, it’s almost 800 pages, and yes, you will not do anything but read those 800 pages once you start it. Consider this a warning.

For writers: Read this book to see how deftly Donna Tartt handles grief and chaos, and how unchecked grief can spiral into even more chaos that will lead to a rock bottom pit of despair. I know, I know, it sounds like such a uplifting read, but hear me out. This is not one of those books that is so impressed with its own misery that you want to jump off a pier upon reading it. It’s raw, honest, and brutal in the best of ways. It’s also beautifully crafted. Like every single sentence is a gem. Tartt’s word choice and structure are exquisite.

You’ll also want to pay attention to character development. Boris and Mrs. Barbour in particular. I found myself saying, I shouldn’t like either of these characters, but they’re so compelling I can’t turn away. They’re also complex and flawed, and Tartt helps me to see exactly why. She builds my sympathy for them to the point that I can’t help but keep reading them, and loving their roles in the book. Even when I want to wring their necks, which happens more with Boris. Theo, the main character, is also a brilliant study. His transformation through his losses and self destruction is something to examine. It’s no wonder this book won the Pulitzer. As a writer, there are pages of brilliance to ponder, and lots of craft techniques to steal.

For readers: Just get the tissues out now. In fact, you might want to invest in a multi-pack. Make sure they’re infused with lotion. This book is a ride through loss, grief, chaos, addiction, wrong turns, lies, and manipulation. It’s also about the surprising ways we heal, hurt, and nurture what is most vital. The premise of the story and its aftermath, the explosion in the art gallery and the theft of a priceless painting, keep the tension running high throughout the entire book. It will not flag for a second, and when you’re staring down nearly 800 pages, the pace can feel a little daunting. Hang with it. It’s worth every single word.