The Goldfinch was read for my book club, but I had already bought it and would have read it anyway.
The third of Donna Tartt's novels, she appears to only bring one out every ten years. My prior experience with her novels was that her debut The Secret History remains in my opinion one of the best novels I've ever read and her second The Little Friend one of my most loathed novels as a reading experience in terms of hours spent versus satisfaction gained.
What then of her third? If The Secret History was love and The Little Friend hate, I would have to class The Goldfinch as indifference. I neither loved it nor hated it and found it somewhat 'meh' to coin a slang phrase.
The reason for this is simple. The book can clearly be split into four distinct zones, each of which feels like it's part of a different novel. New York Part 1, Vegas, New York Part 2, and Amsterdam.
New York Part 1, where the novel starts is great. An explosion at an art gallery kills Theo's Mum, during the aftermath he befriends a dying old man and steals a priceless artwork, before being sent to stay with the rich family of his best friend from school. Though he knows he should return 'The Goldfinch' it becomes a symbol of his last link to his Mum, and he worries about being punished. He contacts the loved ones of the dying man he met and becomes part of their world too. This whole section was such a good setup, all the characters introduced here are interesting and intriguing and you feel that this is the beginning a really beguiling novel. The family Theo stays with are a family of secrets and you wonder what you will find. But from here the novel takes a turn.
The plot moves us away to Vegas, a colourless landscape, with Theo wasting his potential with a Russian stereotype of a character named Boris with whom he bunks off school and takes drugs. It's all a bit been here read that.
Section three finds Theo back in New York and my overwhelming feeling about this Section was that no-one besides Hobie was particularly likeable. Theo continues on a drug abuse spiral and commits a large scale fraud. He's in love but not with his fiance, and it's all a bit depressing, that angle of things. His best friends family due to events, have become incredibly altered from the people we met in Part One so much so in the case of his friends mother, a stoic if ever there was one, as to be unrecognisable as the same character. Again this seems like a different book.
The return of Stereotype Boris leads us to yet another section which feels disconnected to the rest of the book : a crime thriller in Amsterdam of which I was unenamoured.
The closing epilogue is a trite and somehow patronising treatise on The Lessons Theo Learned About Life From This Experience, a section which goes on for pages and doesn't really need to exist at the length that it does. It seems to exist purely to tell the reader what they should have inferred from the novel and what conclusions they should draw. Tiresome.
All of that said, it is well written and enjoyable to read as you go along, but the overwhelming thing we felt at Book Club was "what was the point of it all?" it doesn't seem to have a point, and is not dare I say it, a book literature as a whole would be lost without.