The Goldfinch

goldfinch

Carel Fabritius (1622-1654)
The Goldfinch, 1654

donna-tartt-the-goldfinch-book-cover

So we haven’t talked books in awhile. Way too long actually. I admit to suppressing a little shudder when I recall that the desire to chat about books was one of the main catalysts for starting my blog. A book club where I always had the floor :-)

 Alas, what the Gods of Blog don’t tell you is that blogging is The Enemy of Reading.  At least in my case…any other bloggers out there concur?

Anyway…no doubt by now most of you have heard about, if not read, Donna Tartt’s latest book “The Goldfinch”.  It was listed as one of the “Top 10 Books” of 2013 and I can’t imagine it won’t be made into a film very soon. I took the opportunity to read it when we traveled to Patagonia recently.  Weighing in at 784 pages, it’s not a book one would take in hard-cover on holiday, but the perfect choice to christen the new Kindle “Paperwhite” my sister bought me for Christmas. And to uncharacteristically veer off track for just a moment, I LOVE MY PAPERWHITE! Not only is it awesomely convenient and great for my eyes, it’s been a no more stink-eye from the husband relationship-saver when it comes to reading in bed. Such a blessing when you’re on different schedules (He-sleep, Me-What is sleep?) It’s small enough to hold in one hand and even with the backlight dimmed way down, very easy to read (especially, ahem, if I INCREASE THE FONT)

kindle paperwhite , slimpaley.com

But back to Donna…I just need to say this really fast because I know with certainty I’m in the minority here;

IjustlikeditIdidn’tloveit.

There. I actually do feel better getting the confession off my chest.

Perhaps my expectations were simply too lofty-always a problem with good books and films if you don’t get there quickly enough. And the reviews for this book from both critics and people very close to me have been tremendous. Which makes it that much more difficult to admit I had issues.  The main one being that I simply felt compelled to hit my plausibility button just a few too many times. Suspension of belief is all well and good in certain genres of novels but I guess I wasn’t expecting this to be that (and I’m critiquing her writing-God forgive me!)

American_goldfinch_winter_f

 I also felt like The Goldfinch was written for a younger audience than myself, which quite frankly, I didn’t see coming either. Big font and all.  Not that that is a criticism of the book, just a contributing factor as to why it slipped into my ‘like’ as opposed to ‘love’ category.  Though I haven’t read any, I’d venture there have probably been some comparisons of the main character, Theo, to Holden Caulfield. Caufield is a literary star in my deepest heart of hearts, but he earned that place when I was in my early teens. I guess it made me feel a little sad that I couldn’t get to the same place emotionally with Theo, if that makes any sense. Which, maybe it doesn’t.

Please don’t misunderstand me-there was never any time when I wanted to bail, swear at, or even take a break from The Goldfinch. It’s an entertaining, easy and well-flowing read.  But…oh dear, I just have to sneak in one more slightly presumptuous criticism…I think it might have been a better book with tighter editing (at least 100 pages) and may I remind you, no one loves a good long read more than me. I’m the Extended Tasting Menu of readers. When a book is great, I’m in. Hell, I’ll overstay on occasion.  But in this case, long and in my opinion, unnatural conversations (Theo in the bar with his friend’s older brother) and unrelentingly bleak side stories veering wildly away from the plot line for half the book derailed it. That being said, Goldfinch does tie up satisfyingly in the end.

Ok, phew. That made me want a cocktail. I feel so very alone.

I’m going to leave you with a few pretty captive bird related images to redeem my presumptuous old self.

Vogue Livingvia Vogue Australia Living

I had intended to get this post up before The Dutch Masters exhibition at The Frick closed last Sunday. Unfortunately my New Year’s resolution of slowing time and speeding up personal production hasn’t quite manifested as yet. I will tell you that my son and his friend were able to go and said it was fabulous.  Crowds of people lined up in the frigid NY weather to view Fabritius’ Goldfinch, some long stashed away Rembrandts and Vermeer’s The Girl with the Pearl Earring .

Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 8.52.45 PM

Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl earring

I’m sorry I don’t know where the Dutch Masters exhibition is headed next. Anybody??

Hotel Das Cataratas, Brazil slimpaley.comThis is the lovely, old world bar in the Hotel das Cataratas, located on the Brazilian side of the Iguassu Falls, the second to last stop on our trip to South America.  I loved the hand-painted birds against the old mirror and the broken wires of the cages. Clever.

Bartender, Hotel Das Cataratas, Brazil, slimpaley.com

Brazil, slimpaley.comWhat the clever bartender conjured up

890A0417

haute-culture4

HauteCulturePress.com ‘s first book is a translation of Flaubert’s “Felicity”.  Handmade using silk, gold and a parrot feather bookmark the volume is signed, numbered and comes complete inside its own birdcage. Also clever!

haute-culture-11

Available through Assouline 

Habitually Chic

via HabituallyChic.com

The Biltmore Hotel, Santa Barbara, CA  slimpaley.comThe front entrance foyer of The Biltmore Hotel in Montecito, California last week.

dolce-and-gabbana-rtw-ss2014-runway-27_120412704430

Versace

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Earrings by SolangeAzagury-Partridge

Paradise by Way of Kensal Green,  Bloomsbury Life“Paradise by Way of Kensal Green” in London (via ABloomsburyLife.com )

Timorous Beasties wallpaper

Wallpaper via Timorous Beasties

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Dolce & Gabbana

McQueen

Alexander McQueen Fall 2013

Elle Decor

bird wallpaper

EnVoguewallpapers.com

bird wallpaper

AlexanderMcQueen-Face-mask

Alexander McQueen Fall 2013

haute-culture3

Wishing you a beautiful weekend with a cozy place to nest and lots of reading time!

For more cagey birds visit my post “Tweet Tweet” 

xox SP

~

78 thoughts on “The Goldfinch

  1. You are not alone, dear Slim. I agree; entertaining book but nothing I would even recommend to a friend. And, I agree about the Kindle; great way to read at night without disturbing very fortunate sleeping bed mate. Love the D&G shoe and the pretty room.

  2. Smiled while reading this. Yes, I too was going to write about books when I started my blog. I wrote about them once. Since then, who has time. Blogging is quite the task master. I’ve read far fewer books since I started blogging. Now, I will probably not read The Goldfinch I have it on my iPad but I don’t think I want to go on that 700 page journey if you just “liked it.” Now regarding the painting. That show is traveling while they renovate The Mauritshuis in The Hague. This museums is must see. A true jewel filled with some of the greatest treasures in the world and barely anyone goes there. If you go to Amsterdam, take a day trip to see this museum.

  3. You are BEYOND, haven’t had the pleasure of cracking the cover on Goldfinch, because I am too busy writing and researching for my blog :), but I can tell from your review I’d feel the same way. I need to get a kindle, because 3-5 is an open window for me to read, but hubby cannot be bothered. Gorgeous birdbath.

  4. The show has been up NORTH in SAN FRAN so its not coming back this way………….and i bet I would agree with you on the book!Think I may pick it up to read just to see!

  5. Slim–I love all your posts. I’ve been a reader for quite some time. I would love to see the rest of the barn pictures (with the red window!!) I want to build one as well. And needless to say, I can’t wait for the coffee table book for me and as a gift for my tasteful friends.

  6. Oh well ..can always re read the Secret History …there are so many variables that affect how you relate to a book ..sometimes it’s not the right book at the right time

    No Dutch Masters in Australia but off to see the Aztec exhibition in Canberra in a couple of weeks …Perhaps Donatella channelled them for that fab. dress

  7. Slim, Just loved this! Lots of bird fans in our house. My husband is a longtime bird-watcher and I collect books on birds and bird art. I was wondering how this book was. Sounds like I will never get through it…I have to agree blogging is the enemy of books and more in-depth stuff. Which sometimes bums me out.
    I saw the Dutch paintings when they were here and I’m crazy about Vermeer and The Girl With the Pearl Earring and wrote a post about Vermeer inspired things. I love the Dutch painters.

    Amazing wallpapers too!
    xKim

  8. Tartt is an amazingly good writer whom I also find hard to get caught up in. The plot jaywalks a lot in this one, too. Give Hannah Kent’s stunning debut novel, ‘Burial Rites’, a shot. Consider Kate Atkinson’ Life After Life, too. I never miss anything this erudite, but accessible writer, puts out. Great storytelling from both of these writers.
    Lovely post. Slim. I”m looking forward to more blogs from your sojourn way down south of the border.

    • Thanks Dabbsie
      I am 3/4 of the way through ‘Burial Rites’. I started it before I left for Patagonia but didn’t want to take a hardcover book with me-my suitcase weight was scary enough. I’ve only just returned to it so I’ll let you know.

  9. Oh good. Thank you for that. I love her writing so my expectations have been sky-high. I will still read it (alas I am a cheapie and have to wait for the paperback version) but with a more levelled playing field. Similarly, I finally rented “Enough Said” the other evening (these things take time in Yee Olde France) and had such jinormous expectations…so I actually was a bit disappointed even though it was excellent. Tricky mother******, those expectations, aren’t they?
    Bon Weekend!

  10. Such a beautiful painting “Vermeer Girl”…I can get lost in a museum looking at paintings that tell a story …it draws you in. Thanks always for the journey of your blog.

  11. Love my Kindle too! Especially for really big books in hardcover, and the ability to take as many as I would like on vacation. No more packing books! I have this book on mine, ready to go, but I’ve been sucked into a new mystery series, so it will have to wait until that is done.

  12. I am reading the book now for my book group and agree with you. BTW the Vermeer masterpiece along with its companion paintings have gone to the Palazzo Fava is Bologna. They will be there till May 25. The Frick was the last American tour stop.

  13. Whew; thank you! When I saw your title I thought, “oh dear; I am going to have to buy that book!” Not so; thank you for your review; I don’t want to plow through a “liked” book. One of the gals in my Stitch N’ Bitch group is a party acquaintance of the author’s and she was has been highly recommending we read this saga.

  14. Thank you! I started and stopped four times and finally gave up. Did love seeing The Goldfinch at the Frick on my vacay tho’! Love your honesty!

  15. Everyone I know is raving about this book, but admit its way too long. I know I’d never finish it, so won’t bother to start. Reading has taken a massive hit for me since I started blogging and reading blogs. While I agree that electronic books are great for travel, I still prefer old fashioned hard covers. Is a Paperwhite the same as a Kindle? Must go google that…great post!

  16. The Dragon tattoo trilogy. I wondered why I put up with the first 100 plus pages before it got going. Usually 20 pages in and I can be done. But yes, that was the last book I remember reading. Blogs and babies are sucking vortexes. Good ones though. You are my books for now dear Slim. Thank you.

  17. I enjoyed the book but it definitely could have been tightened up–in the end, it kept me excited although it was in the outer realm of believability-thanks for your interesting take with photos–made it super special,

  18. I felt the same way about Book of Mormon, which I finally saw just before Christmas. It had some memorable moments but overall, I was underwhelmed, placing me in the minority. By the way, your blog is so consistently well done and a treat for all the senses!

  19. Slim I have to agree with you, I had higher expectations of The Goldfinch as well. The protagonist was such an unlikable character and disappointing at every turn! The Assouline edition of Felicity is a little masterpiece!

    xoxo
    Karena
    The Arts by Karena

  20. I completely agree with your comments about the “The Goldfinch”- I felt the exact same way- you are not alone!!
    And the Frick exhibit was beautiful.
    Enjoy the warmth of SB- still freezing in New York!

  21. You are definitely not alone. Bailed and likely will never go back. I didn’t think Theo would ever make it out of the museum there were so many words! Saw Dutch Masters in Atlanta and was divine.

  22. Thank heavens……………I thought I was on repeat from one night to the next when reading this book, over and over again. I thought it was just me. Mostly with the Vegas location, I wanted him out of there! So I agree with you on the edit. That being said, I love Theo (I am 2/3 through the book) and mostly just wanted to adopt him. Rescue him somehow. I have been heading to my bed earlier this week to immerse myself in this book so I would have to say I am really, really liking it. Though as you may know, it is a true Canadian winter here so everyone is jumping into bed early! It is one of those books which always has me thinking “I wish I could construct a story and characters like this”.
    Great post Slim! xx

  23. So very grateful for your honesty! I read a number of glowing reviews, but every one of them mentioned the book spent an inordinate amount of time on unnecessary details *snore* . My first impression was that there is no way I want to spend 700+ pages in a much-younger brain. The only satisfying foray into that distant place for me were both The Unfortunate Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime and The Elegance of the Hedgehog (slim novels, both.)
    I’m reading a memoir, Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart (Super Sad True Love Story; Absurdistan) and it’s hoot–heart wrenching but hilarious!

  24. Touched by your postings..ALWAYS! A next read.. must be discovered.. is a Julian Barnes’ favorite titled Stoner by John Williams. Page by page perfection with what at first appears to be a simple story explodes into enduring, intimate wisdom without deviating from its straight forward, smart writing. It assumes the reader is smart enough to GET IT. We are and we do!

  25. Loved the book. Donna Tartt is a master at keeping many topics going simultaneously. And, I agree, sometimes a ball gets dropped. I, too, thought blogs and books went together. However, as you say, blogging well and reading are not quite compatible! However, I do love the discussion of the painting “The Goldfinch” in the book. And I do love your blog.

  26. Dear Slim,

    Perhaps you could post a blog about some of your favorite books. I am always looking for a good book to read. Also what are your thoughts on ipad vs. kindle vs. nook? ( I am slow to the technology game. )

    • Ipad- the screen is glossy which makes it so much harder to read if there is any amount of sunshine or bright lighting, and it is harder on the eyes. The battery doesn’t last as long, it’s much heavier and It’s also about 4 times the price, but It is obviously much more than just an e-reader.

      Nook- Great e-reader and very comparable to the Kindle. Canadians are are able to “borrow” books from public libraries with the Nook but not with the Kindle, but if you live in the States both devices allow you to borrow books from public libraries. The Nook is slightly lighter than the Kindle.

      I have heard that the Kindle Paperwhite has a slightly superior screen, and response time (page turning) than the Nook. Also, on average you will pay less per book with Amazon Kindle than Barnes & Noble’s Nook.

      If you’re an Amazon Prime member then Kindle is definitely the way to go, you’ll have access to lots of free books.

  27. Slim – I felt the same way you did about the book – and your thought about it being written for a younger audience is quite interesting! I recently reread Catcher in the Rye and I was a little impatient with Holden; he did not seem quite so appealing as he did when I first read it as a young woman.

    I was a wreck while reading the book – I was so worried about what was going to happen to the damn painting and poor Theo – I just had to slog through it and get to the end. I started skipping pages at stressful parts, and rushed through the whole section in the hotel at the end.

    I saw the Vermeer exhibit when it was in San Francisco, and I guess I must have seen the Goldfinch, but I am embarrassed to say that I did not know it was a real painting. I thought the author had invented it, and the painter.

    My book club is meeting this week to discuss The Goldfinch, so it will be interesting to see what they say!

    Have a great weekend!

  28. Oh, I forgot – a lady in San Francisco wore that Alexander McQueen head-cage to the Opera or Symphony opening – she must have gotten quite a few looks!

  29. I used to read so much more books than I do now. Maybe I should start reading them again? :\ I am MUCH more likely to draw, paint and play the guitar nowadays.

  30. I just returned from a trip to Vietnam and while walking through a park in Saigon one morning, I saw many bird cages with one bird in each cage hanging from the tree limbs. I was told that people bring their pet birds to the park, so that the birds can enjoy the companionship and to encourage the birds to sing.

  31. Ha! Don’t feel alone! I felt the exactly the same way about the book — especially its need for tighter editing. My book club will be discussing this book this week. I suspect I will be going out on a limb (get it?!) when I share my thoughts!

  32. I got a Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas as well, I love it!

    Slim, maybe you should do a post asking readers to list their favourite book that they’ve read in the past year, it would be fantastic to get some book recommendations from your blog followers…being that they are the best:)

  33. Slim,
    I hate when the hype prepares you for more than you find. I’m only to the part where Theo is living in Las Vegas and has befriended Borys. It started a little slow for me but I confess, now I’ve been reeled in. Mr. B. Asked me why I liked the book and I was hard pressed to “reel” him in.
    Karen

  34. Yeah, I feel ya. I named my blog “The Reading Nest” thinking I would blog mostly about books. But, er, it turns out I’m terrible at reviewing and talking about my reads. Too hard to get in/get out quickly. Others have a knack for it, but not I! Also, I just got a Nook for Christmas, and The Goldfinch is loaded onto it — am hesitant to try such a massive read on an e-reader (sometimes I like to flip ahead & snoop a bit in real books), but sounds like you liked the experience.

  35. The Dutch Master’s exhibit was incredible. The painting of the Golden Finch is small but still breathtaking. I just downloaded the book and will read it soon. Have you read the new Julian Barnes Book Levels of Life? Great Post

  36. Thanks for saving us from a unnecessarily long book! Have you read “The Yellow Birds” by Kevin Powers? Incredible writer, excellent book.

  37. I guess in this age of instant gratification I shouldn’t be surprised by how many people said they would rather read someone else’s daily blog entry over a book, and the fact that so many said 700 pages was a “massive ” undertaking as if they were reading a computer repair manual.
    I read your blog Slim because you are interesting, humorous in a self-deprecating way and go on fascinating journeys. Plus you only post when there is something of interest to write about. Would I give up reading books over the thousands of mundane blogs out there ( oh gee will Sandy pick the beige or white curtains for her kitchen?) definitely not. Frankly I just don’t understand someone who feels a need to put their daily details on the internet screaming, “Look at me, look at me”. Same goes for Facebook and twitter.
    I too LOVE my Kindle Paperwhite !

    • Am I just too dim to understand what you are trying to express here?? Does one thing have to do with the other? This comment confuses.

  38. Years ago I was mesmerized by The Secret History. No one I knew liked it, much less loved it. I loved The Secret History for its brilliance and the prose. I was proud that it was written by a woman—and a woman of the South. I liked The Little Friend. I could understand why it meant so much to the writer. I was eager to read The Goldfinch and I was a bit anxious. So much so I put it off until after the holidays so that I would have the place and space to take in the 771 pages word by word.

    I was transported. I hear the Southern voice in Tartt’s prose. The Goldfinch is simpler than The Secret History and it shines with a knowing gritty kind of grace. I understand the world has fallen into a glorification of wordless, thoughtless, twitter filled free fall. One hears the worry about whether this book will make to film as if that is the end all be all definition of an author’s talent. I am thankful that Donna Tartt believes in beauty and has struggled to write this wonderful book.

  39. Hi Miss Slim,

    I love your blog. It is very entertaining and I am enjoying all of the beautiful pictures, sitting here in the deep freeze in New York.

    Somewhere I read your comment regarding making photo books. You recommended a great website for this. I have only used iPhoto and it has a lot of limitations. Would you please let me know?

    Thanks,

    Sarah B.

  40. Don’t I know it!! Since I’ve taken up blogging my reading of books (much less anythig) has plummeted, I hardly ever go to the gym any more, and it seems I have no spare time, ever! And that’s posting usually no more than once a week. Must feed the beast! Reggie

  41. I must say I do wonder why you always refer to them as my house, my living room, my kitchen bar at Christmas. Why don’t you call them OUR? What about hubby; doesn’t he consider these things as OUR house, etc.? Just sayin’…You could try to justify your margins. It’s the last choice on Alignment. That way the words wouldn’t run into your side bar. I love your blog. You give of yourself so freely. It’s absolutely lovely.

  42. Teflon pans emit fumes (along with self-cleaning ovens and a myriad of other things with PTFE’s) that kill birds quickly….are you by chance wearing PTFE ?…… cuz’ you just killed that bird o> ding, take down, knock out…… I wish I had time to read 100 pages let alone 771…………

    • Even though Ikindoflikeditdidn’tloveit you should definitely read this book. You will become engrossed and it is amazing how much time you do have to read. I needed this book because I hadn’t read anything great and wasn’t doing enough reading. This book gave me a kick-start and now I haven’t put down my iPad in a month!

  43. Dear Miss Slim,

    I have just discovered your blog and spent the entire day yesterday reading your postings. (It is frigid here in NY and, besides, your blog is super-entertaining) I am amazed no one has come up with what I think should definitely be a new adjective: SLIM-TASTIC!

    Oh, another thing. If I had a master bathroom like yours (or a house for that matter although I haven’t seen much) there is no way I would schlepp off to that huge mountain, something Peak. And Patagonia! Although I do understand that was hubby’s doing. NO WAY would I put on crampons and climb anything! Just put me at the bottom of your staircase and I would say ‘night, ‘night and scoot up to bed. You probably have divine sheets and a cozy comforter!.

    Great blog! Keep up the good work. I am your new #1 fan.

    Lucy

  44. i missed the Frick exhibition too, damn it! Would have been great to see the painting as i’m reading The Goldfinch right now. I do love the energy the book puts out, i find myself not breathing until i’ve finished certain pages.

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