Did Tartt switch books on us halfway through?

The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt

Bullet Review:

OMG I FINALLY FINISHED IT!

I am so exhausted after forcing myself to listen to the last 8% that I have no energy for a review. But here's my thoughts as I listened:

3%: This isn't too shabby, but it's litfic, so I should be careful.
15%: Ah, this is actually rather nice to read.
21%: Another good part - Hobie! So great to see such a well-written character!
27%: That was quite a change. Wonder what's gonna happen now.
34%: God, Borys and Theo are turning into some warped kids. Hope we can get past this to something interesting.
45%: Theo has the worst luck of any teenager. Dayum
54%: WHOA NELLY!! We spend nearly half the book on, like, 3 years and then we FASTFORWARD EIGHT?!
58%: Who is this person walking around calling himself Theo? DO NOT LIKE.
60%: Time to speed up the audiobook
64%: THEO IS GETTING MARRIED??!?! What idiot wants to MARRY him??!
75%: Theo's fiancee cheated on him? I'm supposed to feel bad for him? NOPE.
82%: LORD HAVE MERCY, I MUST finish this before vacation!
86%: JUST KEEP LISTENING!
88%: Home stretch?
90%: This is agonizing!
92%: Are we there yet?
94%: Can I speed up the audiobook anymore? No?
98%: GOOD GOD WHERE IS THIS GOING?!
100%: THAT'S IT??!? THAT'S HOW THIS ENDS.

...

The book has great turns of phrases and the first half is solid, but that second half - I thought I wasn't gonna survive that part!

Full Review to come once I get out of my hangover. I can't WAIT to start the next Song of Ice and Fire book after that!!!

Review:

Theo Decker is a young boy who loves his mother very much. When a visit to the museum to see the famous Fabrici The Goldfinch ends with an act of terrorism and his mother's death, Theo's life is changed forever.

This book is HUGE. ENORMOUS. The audiobook may not be very good at showing how large it is, but I've heard that it's about 771 pages (in hardcover I think?). On audiobook, that translated to 26 discs.

What I mean to say is - if you are at all ambivalent about reading this, keep that in mind. It's a LONG journey, and I don't know if the end really is impactful enough to justify the length.

I was aware of this book because, well, it's everywhere. But when I saw some positive reviews roll in from Goodreaders, I thought I would snap up the audiobook.

The first half of the book made me pat myself on the back for reading this. The second half of the book made me regret picking it up. Well, maybe not "regret" regret, as I still thought the first half was really good, but definitely, that ending was NOT worth (IMO) wading through this massive tome.

Why such a disparity of thought? Well, I feel it boils down to a single event, nearly 60% through the book where the author moves from showing nearly every moment of Theo's life (including an extended episode wherein Theo doesn't do much more than destroy his liver with vodka and his mind with narcotics) to jumping 8 years in the future. It felt awkward and weird, in a book where we spent several hundred pages with Theo from about 13 to around 15 to suddenly leap into the future to 23 (or so) old Theo.

And early-20's Theo wasn't a nice person to see. Teenaged Theo was an idiot most of the time (including aforementioned period with Borys in Reno drunk or high), but there was something charming about him. I cared about him, because he was a young man, caught in an ugly judicial system that would see him in the custody of an awful biological parent than with a (mostly loving) family.

Adult Theo was a jerk. He was a philanderer, never bothering to remember the name of his partners and helping partake in adultery. He was obsessive about a woman and objectified/worshiped the image he made of her. He cheated and lied in Hobie's business - getting him out of debt, but firmly placing him in the sights of unsavory characters. He was a selfish jerk to the people around him - the Barbours, Hobie. He drank too much and kept relying on drugs to blind his pain. And he decided to marry Kitty because, well, doesn't he deserve someone hot like her, and wouldn't it be swell?

I can follow and love deplorable characters - I read "Song of Ice and Fire" for Space's sake - but this is just too much. Theo became a character I didn't want to care about anymore. He changed into this beast - and I feel like I have no idea how it happened.

And the end. That conclusion. The whole reason I stuck to it at the end - it just fell flat. "Be yourself". "Follow your heart". "A dream is a wish your heart makes". These are OK in kid's movies and in fantasy-land, but to be the theme of your book? The theme of a massive 771 page behemoth? Really?

The saving grace of this book is most definitely the writing. Tartt can freaking write. She can write circles around the pap that passes for entertainment - namely EL James and Katy Evans.

I really enjoyed the first half - that alone would have been 5 stars. But with the wallowing and meandering of the second half, the inexplicable changes in Theo - sorry, that's easily 1-2 stars. So 3 stars is more than generous for this - especially given that conclusion.

That said, I wouldn't mind checking out Tartt in the future.