Everyone Else is Reading It: The Goldfinch

Normally it’s my personal book policy not to start the year off with a hefty read. I’ve found that I get distracted by how long it’s taking me and start to think about how this will likely affect my year end book reading total. A couple of years ago it took me three weeks (three weeks!) to get through George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda at the beginning of the year and ended up one book short of my 65 book goal.

I know – I need to get out more.

But everyone kept talking about Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and I started to feel really left out so I read it. All 771 pages of it.

If you want a proper review of this book, you should probably just click here  because this is a better review than I could ever possibly hope to write.

But if you’re after some general thoughts and feelings and observations about one of the most reviewed and talked about books in recent memory, then read on.


OK fine, a bare bones summary for those of you that aren’t clicking the link (but you’re missing out): Theo Decker’s mom dies suddenly and he’s left in the care of a succession of guardians: his friend Andy’s family in a fancy Manhattan apartment, his alcoholic gambler father and his cocktail waitress girlfriend in Las Vegas and finally James Hobart, an antique dealer back in New York. We follow Theo’s story from the death of his mother, bouncing around these different homes, struggling with drinking and addiction, with one very special object in his possession: Carel Fabritius’ The Goldfinch.

First, as pointed out by the lovely and always right Jennine,  this book is physically beautiful. The pages are super creamy and soft, the cover so perfectly captures the crux of the story and the reproduction of The Goldfinch painting on the inside? Flawless.

Do you remember several years ago when Tracy Chevalier wrote The Girl With A Pearl Earring and everyone lost their minds over it and suddenly that painting was uber famous? I feel like something similar might be happening with the Fabritius painting, The Goldfinch (coincidentally housed in the same museum, the Mauritshuis in the Hague – if you haven’t already, go there!). People have definitely seen the painting before but I think it’s one of those ones that used to fade into the background after you walked away. Now, I think people will search it out.

This book was a commitment. And sometimes I wasn’t sure that I was getting anything out of it. Because it’s such a long book, Tartt has the luxury of really spending time spinning out the tale. For a while it felt like the real story was taking a while to get started. And there are sections where Theo is talking about how he got to where he is, his thoughts, feelings, sensations etc., and it feels kind of self-indulgent. At the same time, why wouldn’t it be – that’s the way Theo has learned to be.

I will say that it did all wrap up very neatly. If you’re hankering after a story with a proper resolution, this is it. The time spent getting there will for sure have been worth it. You will have all that time to marvel at Tartt’s skill at weaving such a complex story with so many genuine characters. One thing that struck me most about her skill was her ability to describe movement, or fighting. Usually in those scenes, I tend to pick out the most important action but overall, I have trouble following the action. With Tartt masterfully creating the scene, I was able to follow every move.

In the end, the beauty of the book and the splendour of the writing, reminded me that a world without beauty is pointless. We are attracted to these stories because they remind us that although life is completely flawed, it’s a beautiful thing all the same.


The (Temporary) End of My Library Run

For the first time in months, I have no library books in my possession.

This isn’t because I’ve fallen out of love with the library or anything like that. No, no. It’s because I’ve been so caught up in the library and all of the reading treasures housed within that I’ve been neglecting all of the beautiful books awaiting my attention in my own library!

As some of you may know, I’m currently under a self-imposed (and flexible) book ban. It’s not a permanent thing. I haven’t lost my mind and decided not to buy books ever again. I haven’t decided to categorize books as clutter. Nothing like that; I have a wedding to pay for and books ain’t cheap. So I started going to the library to save money. And instead of exercising anything remotely resembling bookish self restraint, I started taking home 7 or 8 books every few weeks.

But they have to be back at the library in a few weeks. So even though I could renew them (and occasionally I have), more often than not I just neglect all other books and read the library books.

Result: my own books are screaming for my attention.

I’m taking a hiatus from the library until I make a dent in some of my own book piles.

So what is awaiting my attention? Read on!

For Christmas I got four beautiful books and I’ve only read one of them so far (Burial Rites). Night Film by Marisha Pessl, The Massey Murder: A Maid, Her Master and the Trial That Shocked A Country by Charlotte Gray and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt are all still waiting to be read (and hopefully loved). And yes, I realize that all the books I asked for for Christmas had to do with death. I’m probably less disturbed by that than I should be.

I buy classics because I love them and usually they are on some kind of sale. Mostly love but if I can get more books for the same amount of money, so much the better. But reading classics can be a commitment and I get distracted by shiny new reads a lot. War and Peace is still sitting on my shelf, waiting for round two. I’ve made an attempt at Nicholas Nickleby once as well (but as travel reading when it was so not appropriate travel reading) so that needs another go. And The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. I loved The Age of Innocence and I know I will likely enjoy this one too but again – new and shiny.

Last year I read quite a lot of non-fiction. And yet? I didn’t get to all the non- fiction books that I bought. After I saw Lincoln last year, I meant to read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals but I have yet to do so. I also have a book about Amsterdam that I impulsively bought because I always buy books about Amsterdam or the Netherlands when I see them as they are so rare. I’m in the middle of The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel so that’s progress (so far it’s also insanely interesting and horrifying) but I have yet to crack From Splendor to Revolution, Julia P. Gelardi’s account of the Romanov women from 1847-1928. By all accounts, I will love this book. One of my very favourite biographies was Gelardi’s Born to Rule: Five Reigning Consorts, Granddaughters of Queen Victoria.

So for now, although the library calls out to me with the promise of all kinds of undiscovered riches, I’m going to try and resist so that I can make my way through my own books.

But like I say, I’m pretty flexible with these things.