I normally paint myself as someone who will trade a decent plot for beautiful prose, but perhaps I have found my limit for that as being somewhere around 300 pages.
I don’t think I’m treading new ground to say I thought The Goldfinch would never end. There is such a thing as too much perfection. Tartt has a magic about her writing – without any obvious brush strokes, you are in a scene – you can see and smell and feel everything. She is a master at “show, not tell,” without being a diva about it and insisting on hitting high notes just for the sake of showing she can. But when the plot can be summarized in just over 1600 words on Wikipedia, and the book is nearly 750 pages long, you have to wonder if there couldn’t have been an in-between? I liked the first part of the book, my introduction to Tartt’s writing – but there were unbelievable moments even then. After a terrorist bomb takes out a museum, the narrator – a 13 year old boy, is not only the only survivor from his area of the museum, but he gets out without running into any responders and is shooed away from the site without anyone noticing he was obviously a victim. I’m not sure if we’re to think Theo is an unreliable narrator from the very beginning, or if it only requires the suspension of disbelief to proceed. While I realize social services is rarely perfect, dealing as they do, with the most imperfect of situations – there are enough adults and enough money involved that being sent off with an obviously unstable parent is implausible at best.
From there the story declines into just about every drama you can think of: child abuse, gambling, alcoholism, drug use and distribution, adultery, racism, art theft, international intrigue, unrequited love, wealth, terrorism, and gangs, to name a dozen. Almost no characters are likable by the end of the story, save Hobie.
All the same, I’m still interested in trying out Tartt’s other works, including The Secret History. But I might just double speed the audiobook through any lengthy narration.