What an amazing book. A huge book. The longest, most engrossing book I've read all year: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.
For me, The Goldfinch is a masterpiece (pardon the pun!), and I couldn't put it down. I rushed through the pages, lapping up the descriptions and the constant drizzle of rain.
Atmospheric, intense, intimate, engrossing, beautiful and sad.
I've loved Donna Tartt's work since I read The Secret History, circa 2004; that dreamy place when I was in my early twenties and it was autumn and the story just sang to me leaving a lasting impression.
But then The Little Friend - so rich in detail and so tautly drawn, yet the ending frustratingly disappointing. I didn't recover from that for a while.
My bookshelves already bulge with unread titles, and so I didn't rush out to buy The Goldfinch when it came out last year. And I'm glad, because instead it found me on a rainy Monday morning, whispering its call from the central podium in my local library.
I'd heard and read mixed reviews, things along the lines of 'I couldn't' finish - it was 'too boring' or 'nothing happened', and even 'it was too depressing.'
This just shows that you can never please everyone with the creative work you do, that you have to tell the story that you have inside that begs and pleads to be released, coming to you in dreams and filling your mind with plot twists at the most unexpected times (driving, in the supermarket queue, at 6am when you're still half asleep...)
At first I found the constant use of brackets to expand on certain points very distracting, yanking me from the story for what I felt were unnecessary asides and back-story. But after that died down and I wove into the heart of the tale, the image of The Goldfinch - the title painting - anchored to a point; I was hopelessly under its spell.
I even dreamt about it one night - the characters, the smells, the sights, the sounds - because it is with such skill that Donna Tartt has woven the story in rich, tantalising detail.
Here's a few of my favourite lines (no spoilers):
She was the golden thread running through everything, a lens that magnified beauty so that the whole world stood transfigured in relation to her, and her alone."
Beautiful. And isn't this so true:
We don't get to choose our own hearts. We can't make ourselves want what's good for us or what's good for other people. We don't get to choose the people we are."
The conjuring of an antique furniture restoration workshop:
Dust-furred windows: gilded cupids...the reek of turpentine, oil paint and varnish...spicy mahogany, dusty-smelling oak, black cherry with its characteristic tang and the flowery, amber-resin smell of rosewood."
I felt like I was there - and like I wanted to be there.
...those images that strike the heart and set it blooming like a flower, images that open up some much, much larger beauty that you can spend your whole life looking for and never find."
Mesmerising words and flow that transported me into that fictional space, a space I couldn't wait to return to each day. I devoured this book within a (busy) week and although there was a lot of detail and description, for which Donna Tartt is famous, I found this book a real page-turner.
The plot twists when they came were huge.
Finally - because I could quote the whole book - this line near the end sums up the journey of life in a melancholy, wistful reflection by the central character:
...I thought of all the places I'd been and all the places I hadn't, a world lost and vast and unknowable, dingy maze of cities and alleyways, far-drifting ash and hostile immensities, connections missed, things lost and never found."
There aren't any more words.
Just get it and read it and let me know what you think (I wish I was in a book group right now!)
I don't think you'll be disappointed. I *hope* you're not disappointed.
NB. In case there is any doubt, this is not a sponsored post. I'm simply a satisfied reader and appreciator of well-written books.