Book Review: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The Goldfinch 4Unusually, I listened to this book instead of reading it.  Actually, this was the very first book I ever listened to.  I had taken Audible.com up on their free introduction, and having downloaded this book, promptly cancelled my membership, quite convinced I’d never have time to listen to an entire book.

I was wrong.  It turns out that if the book you’re listening to is as utterly spellbinding as The Goldfinch, you’ll find time.  I listened to it in the car, volunteering for any task that involved travel.  I listened to it as I carried out all the housework jobs I’d been putting off.  I listened to it as I was cooking, walking and even sleeping.

The plot of this book is a very interesting one, and it is a testament to Donna Tartt’s skill that it is believable.  The blurb gives very little away, sticking mainly to the facts: Aged thirteen Theo Decker loses his mother in a devastating event.  He is taken in by a wealthy family in New York but always remains on the fringes, drawn towards society’s outcasts. The only thing connecting him to his previous happy life with his mother is a small painting; that of the Goldfinch. This painting informs his decisions and choices throughout his life, eventually culminating in a descent into the criminal underworld.

While the story itself is an engaging one, it is the calibre of writing which really makes this book deserved of its must-read status.  And it is in this respect that I’m almost mad at myself for listening to this book instead of reading it, as I feel I should be studying Donna Tartt’s sentences instead of just letting them flow over me.  She writes with the deftest of hands, portraying vividly flawed characters, complicated relationships and that hapless forward propulsion of life that leads us through the strangest of events.

Also, I should note that The Goldfinch was narrated by David Pittu.  I would’ve thought that it didn’t really matter who read a book as long as he or she had good diction, a neutral accent, etc.  But David Pittu magically brought each character in this book alive, giving them raspy, old-man voices, soft, high-pitched feminine tones and even rumbling, thick Russian accents.   His highly skilled narration and Donna Tartt’s captivating writing meant that listening to this book combined two of my favourite ways to relax – going to the movies and reading a book.

Ps.  I’m reinstating my Audible membership.

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