Donna Tartt’s third novel, The Goldfinch, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2014, so I must admit I read it partly out of curiosity. At nearly eight hundred pages it is quite a marathon, like reading two books back-to-back, so was it worth it, when I have such a long list of books to read? I was expecting a ‘coming of age’ novel but this is so much more.
Bleak and depressing in parts, I’m not giving too much away to say it starts with the untimely death of thirteen year old Theo Decker’s mother. She was one of two, perhaps three likeable characters in the book, replaced by a succession of troubled – and troubling companions, so I shared his grief at her loss.
I read in a Telegraph interview that it took Donna Tartt ten years to write. She says, “So many people say to me, why don’t you write books faster? But working that way doesn’t come naturally to me. I would be miserable cranking out a book every three or four years. And if I’m not having fun writing it, people aren’t going to have fun reading it.”
Did I have fun reading it? On the back cover The Goldfinch is described as a ‘a gripping page turner’. Several times I found myself turning back and reading a page again to see if I had missed something. Rich in metaphor, coincidence and serendipity save the plot on more than on occasion. Readers have to work hard to understand character motivation and often shocking action is interspersed with long, indulgent passages. The Goldfinch reminds me there really are no rules in novel writing. For that reason, I have to say yes.