August 19, 2014

March & April - The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

So many great books last year - so many great long books last year. We knew we wanted to read one of them but getting through 700 or 800 pages just wasn't going to happen in one month for most of us. So we split Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch into two months which worked really well. It gave people a little wiggle room but also encouraged everyone to try to keep up so that nothing got ruined in a book there was still 400 pages to get through. Also, it made for two great months' of discussions.

We were feeling pretty smart that the book we chose out of all of those great books from 2013 ended up winning the Pulitzer!

On the likability scale, this one ranked all over the place for our group. Much of that depended on how much more editing we thought was needed. Most of us agreed that at least a good 50-100 pages could have been cut without much loss in the story or the message. Vegas  - we're looking at you!

On the other hand, we were in universal agreement that Tartt's writing was really impressive. While we found most of the characters not very likable, including poor Theo who never did recover from the loss of his mother. But, like so many people, Boris was our favorite character and we did have a bit of a soft spot for Mrs. Barbour who turns out to be a decent person.

Tartt's ability to use her settings as a character are impressive - Vegas is bleak, empty, a bastion of sin and excess, New York is two entirely different cities as seen through Theo's changed circumstances, darker, dreary upon his return. Although some of us had a problem with the excessive use of drugs and alcohol in Vegas, others found it necessary. Although, again, we all agreed too much of the entire time period. On the other hand...not to give away any big secrets but it kind of comes back to be essential later in the book.

The book's been called "Dickensian" by almost all reviews and it truly is - an orphan, a family that takes him in all loaded with their own issues, the girl the orphan becomes obsessed with, and the scope of the story and mass of themes are all reminiscent of Dickens' chunksters.

Mostly, even those who didn't love the book were glad that they had soldiered on and read it. Some of us found it hard to say goodbye to Theo...and Boris!

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