Expectation is something I often wish we could do without. Almost always it does nothing more than set you up for a fall. The previous high quality of Tartt’s rather sparse output made this drop even more perilous. When about six months ago I came across the author’s site and read that she had a new book coming out in late 2013 I just knew it was something to look forward to. I should have known that the fall was coming.
You see Tartt’s previous writings did the most magical thing a story can do they transported me into its world. Even reading some of the short stories on her site drew me in. I could so easily place myself in the messy back garden of a ramshackle house playing soldiers with stick machine guns making ‘eck eck eck BOOM’ noises for added realism. The same was true for her two novels ‘The Secret History’ and ‘The Little Friend’. I was captivated. The atmosphere of the characters and the setting was palpable and all consuming. As a reader I wanted to experience the world of the characters even when it was dark.
In ‘The Goldfinch’ by contrast the atmosphere was lacking to say the least. What is even worse I was initially drawn. The beginning of the book is gripping. New York seemed real, the main character ‘Theo’ is interesting and you really for him. This strong start made the expectation fall even worse as from about 20% in on my kindle things started to go downhill alarmingly.
The story moves to Vegas and it quickly become clear that Tartt has no interest in anything but linguistic wordplay. The plot is stalled for the next 300 or so pages as it and character development disappears into a mixture of teenage myopia on drugs and overly long descriptions that almost last entire chapters . It cannot be overstated how boring and tedious this became. This book clearly was not edited in anyway because, although it runs in at a hefty 700+ pages at times it felt like double that.
The quality of this book is summed up by the ending. A final chapter composed of a long rambling monologue from the soporific ‘Theo’ who makes Hamlet seem a man of action. In is he ties together the loose ends of the plot revealing that all his problems have been solved without him having to do anything proactive at all! This might be true to his character but it makes him an awful main character for a book. I haven’t seen a dumber ending since Ian McEwans equally full of itself ‘Enduring Love’ but at least that was only 247 pages long. Hell even the ending to Lost was better than this (okay that’s not true)!
So ‘The Goldfinch’ was a major letdown. My expectations again set me up for a fall but at least I’ve got the new Terry Pratchett book to look forward to.