Yet again, Kinsey is here to tell you to read a book that everyone on earth already knows about! This time, I’d like to refer you to the novel that just won the Pulitzer Prize, Donna Tartt’s new book The Goldfinch.
Actually, I am not here to tell everyone to read this. I ultimately thought it was great, but it also took me a month to read and was long and weird and I completely understand the people who didn’t like it and why the reviews were sort of all over the place. It’s an odd book–better, and more focused I think, than The Little Friend but not as streamlined or hard-hitting as The Secret History. I think you SHOULD read this book if:
1) You like long, rambling epics. This book is something like 800 pages long. (I read it on my Kindle so I didn’t see a page count, but man did those percentages go by slowly.) And it feels long–and like several different books, actually. It starts off in New York City as an urban, city kid story, but there’s a long stretch in the middle where the main character (Theo) is in high school in Las Vegas, and then another looong stretch as him as an adult. It was as if different stories with very different atmospheres all mushed together into one superlong story. So be prepared to make an investment.
2) You’re okay with a sense of dark foreboding. It wasn’t just the page length that made this book go so slowly for me. I kept setting the book down for days at a time because while I was desperate to find out what happened, it was so tense and all seemed so destined to end badly for Theo and the other characters that I couldn’t stand to keep reading. At one point, I was on an international flight, trapped in an seat for hours with plenty of time to finish the novel, and I was so dreading what might happen that I chose to watch a bunch of episodes of Two and A Half Men instead. I KNOW.
3) You like art (specifically Old Masters kind of art). For the two people who don’t know, the book centers around a painting that Theo accidentally takes from the Met when he end up in the middle of a terrorist attack on the museum (this sounds preposterous when I say it, but it makes sense in the book). There is A LOT of description of this painting, and other paintings that Theo ends up coming into contact with. And further, there is a lot of discussion of “art,” and of what art, and paintings, and this painting in particular mean to people’s lives and to their souls. I didn’t find this until I after I finished the book, but someone put together a genius Pinterest board that shows all of the various art work mentioned in the book–it’s a huge help to be able to actually see what Tartt is describing.
4) You don’t mind a useless/immoral main character. I certainly had sympathy for Theo after spending so much time with him, but he’s frustrating and (especially as an adult) not a particularly admirable character. There were any number of points when I just wanted to throw my hands up and tell him that if he didn’t stop making such bad decisions I was going to have to give up on him.
So, don’t go into this book expecting a beach read, is what I’m saying. But I did like the book, and a number of the supporting characters were so great that I wish I could read 800 more pages about them (Boris!). Also, I will give away the tiniest spoiler, just because know my audience: nothing bad happens to the dog.
Kinsey’s Three Word Review: Sprawling modern saga
You might also like: Three Junes or The Whole World Over by Julia Glass, which are also dense, chewy books with New York City settings.