It's that time again! Welcome to The Cephalopod Coffeehouse, an online gathering of bloggers who love books, hosted by The Armchair Squid! If you're interested, please sign on to the link list at the end of this post. Come on, do it - it will be fun!
This month, I decided to dive in to The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. It's a whopper (784 pages), but it definitely has a following. It won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction - that ain't too shabby, eh?
The story revolves around the character of thirteen year old Theo Decker, who has found his life in shambles when a bomb goes off at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, killing his beloved mother and other innocent bystanders. A dying man implores him to take a painting: The Goldfinch, made in 1654 by Carel Fabritius. From that point on, the painting becomes a tie to his lost mother and his past as the adult Theo travels the world, carrying his guilt and grief along for the ride.
Needless to say, I am no writer, unless you would allow me that designation because I know how to use a pen for handwriting. Prior to whipping up my review, I was compelled to look at the reviews of other more insightful literary reviewers (very unlike me); I usually am true to my initial feelings about something and just go with it. My opinion is worth every cent you pay for it, after all. However, I questioned my own judgement.
The word "Dickensian" was thrown around in many of the reviews, and I can agree that there were quite a few characters that I felt were very much like a those that old Charles might concoct - but this was not A Tale of Two Cities or Great Expectations. There's the sneaky, wildcard of a father, who might not be a very good role model. Don't forget the druggie girl friend, named Xanadu, who tries to pop pills and snort coke as a way to the readers' heart and the foreign pal, Boris, who has a little comic relief - but not much. Ah, heck, throw in some gangsters and furniture restoration, just for good measure. It's got a little bit of everything and it won a PULITZER PRIZE, people!
Then - why didn't I just love it?
Though I'll never get those hours back, I'm not sorry I read it. In retrospect, I may just be saying that because it was me doing the reading - I'll trudge through anything, I hate to put a book down. Yet, I can't say I'd run out and buy it as a Christmas gift for someone else. That's the real litmus test. Would I pass it on to someone else, with a big thumb's up? Analyzing my feelings about the book, I realized I read the other reviews because I was swayed by the hype, and I kept thinking "everyone says this is a fantastic book...what's wrong with me?"
Something about it felt like it was trying too hard to have a great, enduring, artsy message - but maybe it didn't have the substance to pull that off. Maybe it needed to be a thousand pages long...naw, I'm gonna say five-hundred. The Dickens-like characters? They gave me a mental picture of Donna Tartt typing and saying to herself, "I need some Dickens-like characters." My ongoing plot assessment alternated between "oh-come-on" and "when-will-this-be-over," punctuated with periods of "well, that was a pretty interesting metaphor or simile."
Maybe I don't know what it takes to have a Pulitzer prize winner...you don't see any books with my name on your shelf, so what do I know? It was a little disappointing after waiting for the other 64 people ahead of me on the library request list to finish it and give me a shot. I'm glad I didn't purchase it.
I don't want to ruin it for someone else, remember that some people sing it's praises - and I'd love to hear another opinion (Stephanie Faris, do you hear me?).
[My apologies! Apparently I scheduled a p.m. instead of an a.m. post. I'm here now!]
The idea is simple: on the last Friday of each month, post about the best book you've finished over the past month while visiting other bloggers doing the same. In this way, we'll all have the opportunity to share our thoughts with other enthusiastic readers. Please join us: