A dear friend with whom I often discuss books and many other topics wrote me the other day, upon hearing that Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch had just won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, saying, “I guess that means we have to read it.”
At the time of her email, I was 82% finished with the almost 800 page novel (I knew that because my e-reader tells me how much I have read). I finished The Goldfinch the next morning and wrote back the following:
Includes too much about stuff I don’t really need to know so much about (addictions, alcohol, drugs).
Needs to be at least 200 pages shorter (700+ pages in all).
Found myself forcing my eye down the page quickly numerous times.
Almost tossed it at several points.
Glad I didn’t.
With all its faults, there is enough of value to make it worth one’s time.
Especially the final 10%.
When I finally began to read it about a week ago, it was largely because one contributor to MillersTime Favorite Reads of the Year had put it in his list. Given its length, I wasn’t sure I wanted to devote that much time to one novel, but I carved out most of three or four days and began reading.
It read quickly, and I found myself engaged in the story. Then, about half way through, it began to drag, and I found myself skimming, mostly wanting to know (and fearing) what would happen to the main characters. Fortunately, I didn’t quit.
The Goldfinch is a story about grief, about art, about adolescence (and about a number of other stages of life), about friendship(s), about what’s important in life, about mother-son relationships, about father-son relationships, about decisions, disastrous and not so disastrous ones, it’s about the heart, about the mind. It asks the reader for some suspension of disbelief. And it asks for much of the reader’s time.
It’s also well written and has enough sense of mystery about the outcome of the characters that once begun, it carried me along.
Whether it deserves the Pulitzer for fiction more than its competitor, Philipp Meyer’s The Son, a lengthy four generation, historical saga about two Texas families, one white, one Mexican, I guess has been decided, at least by the Pulitzer judges. But I enjoyed The Son very much.
If you are looking for shorter novels, I have recently thoroughly enjoyed several other suggestions by MillersTime readers, including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie‘s Americanah, Sherman Alexie’s The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Herman Koch’s The Dinner, Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland, and a much older one, recently recommended, Stoner by John Williams.