For the first 700 pages this book was the very definition of a page turner. I lugged the 864 page tome around Australia in my hand luggage because I couldn’t bear to be parted with it. From the first tragic chapters – a bomb in a museum, a young child losing their Mother – to that child’s downwards spiral across New York, Las Vegas and Europe. I was truly gripped.
But somewhere in the last few chapters I lost that grip. Much like Theo (now a disturbed adult) I just wanted to end it. I was feeling twitchy and on-edge, like Theo’s drug abuse had affected my nerves too. His ‘best friend’ Boris repulsed me, even the detailed descriptions of furniture and artwork began to (dare I say it) bore me. (I am a Luddite when it comes to these things though – art historians can rightly chastise me for this comment.)
I cannot deny the book is a masterpiece though. All the way through (and I certainly felt compelled to read to the end) I kept thinking what a massive amount of work it must have been to put this together. The craftsmanship of the words, the research, the sheer level of character and plot detail. For that reason alone this is a book worth reading.
This is not just a book you read, but one you feel. The complex characters of the adults who take Theo in – Hobie, The Barbours, his Father – means you never know who to trust. You’re constantly watching Theo’s back, even when he may no longer deserve it. There is a huge cast of characters who have all suffered some kind of loss, it’s hard to decide where your sympathy lies most.
And poor Theo, the story’s tragic hero, I’m afraid my sympathy ran out for him in the end. But maybe, come to think of it, that was Tartt’s plan all along.
Buy The Goldfinch on Amazon from £4.49.