Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

A Little Birdie Told Me

One aspect of blogging that is a definite benefit is finding new titles to read. Goldfinch by Donna Tarrt is one of those titles. Considering it received the Pulitzer and had so many varied reviews–Loved it!” “Hated it!” I had to decide for myself. I will never truly know how I might have liked it. It’s been relegated to my rare “didn’t finish” designation on my Goodreads tab.  Why?  Admittedly, it takes quite a bit for me to *gasp* abandon reading a book.



Here are my impressions:

  • Plot interesting although contrived. I work with teenagers and I have yet to come across any who talk like they are fourteen going on thirty-four.  I know. I know. It’s a novel and there are liberties called artistic license.
  • I’ve read BIG books; however, the story needs to justify the length. Melville or Dickens, this is not. Instead, I found myself getting more and more irritated as  Theo, the protagonist, reveled in TMI (too much information). It’s like being caught in a conversation with someone who keeps adding on instead of continuing on with their story.  I didn’t find all the extra detail to be that significant to moving the plot along.
  • I also found the stereotypes disappointing: the out-of-touch adults trying to counsel Theo; the genius, yet nerdy friend; the dysfunctional wealthy family; the unconventional adult who becomes Theo’s island of solace.
  • Here is the real clincher. I could have continued with the reading. There is enough intrigue and character investment that I had a desire to keep giving it a go, then the dreaded birdie kept flipping up unexpectedly. The boid, the random explosion of f-bombs finally annoyed me enough to say “done” and moving on. I understand profanity adds a certain aspect of verisimilitude; however, certain words remind me of pepper–sprinkle too much on and it actually hinders the flavor instead of enhancing.  The random f-bomb turned into a regular blasting zone and I began to wince. Here’s the deal: “Hey, Theo–you’re a nice enough kid, and you have a great vocabulary, so why the potty  mouth?”
  • I also wondered if this wasn’t  really a dressed out YA. A large portion of the book centers on Theo’s teen years. Then again, I didn’t mind reading Hunger Games; on the other hand, that IS considered YA.

Overall, I would have kept going to read the 700+ pages. It takes several elements for me to finally pull my bookmark and move on. I have way too many books I want to read to keep going with one that wears on me.

Twofold commentary requests here:

1. Anyone agree or disagree with my Goldfinch assessment?

2. How do you handle books that don’t live up to your expectations?  Do you continue or do you move on?

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25 thoughts on “A Little Birdie Told Me

  1. I have not read Goldfinch but have been tempted to give it a shot…after your assessment I’ll give it a pass.
    Here is how I deal with disappointing books: I put a bookmark where I left off, I put them on my bookshelf, I buy a new book, I make a resolution to finish the first book some day, I rarely finish the book.

    • Oh dear, I hope my opinion doesn’t carry that much clout. I was actually hoping to stir up some conversation with those who’ve read it. But I do follow your method of moving on and rarely looking back (good intentions though)

  2. I don’t disagree with some of your assessments of the book. At a certain point I was thinking that I might do the same and just walk away. The ending is pretty great – not the plot ending- I’m not sure that I ended up caring about Theo at all in the end. But Tartt’s exploration of why we love beautiful things and why they matter was pretty great. Maybe just go back to that last bit and read that.

  3. I feel the same way, although I read the entire book because two other blogger friends were on opposite sides of the fence. So I had to be the tie-breaker. I’ve got a review of the book on my blog. If I hadn’t committed myself to reading the entire thing, I never would have made it past Las Vegas.

  4. I actually don’t intend to read GOLDFINCH, so that book itself doesn’t interest me. I simply don’t have the desire to attack giant tomes since my TBR list is ridiculously long and starting to feel weighty rather than appealing 😦 The Harry Potter series has been, of course, a different stories. I STILL wanted more! lol

    Only back when I was first trying to catch up on years of not reading and was delving into all kinds of kidlit did I push myself to read books I REALLY wasn’t enjoying or even HATED. It’s been several years since I’ve done that. If a book doesn’t grip me enough I will now put it aside completely, and even the ones I’ve “paused” as Donalyn Miller puts it, are ultimately dead. Life is simply too short, and reading time is significantly shorter, to waste any of it. Pam, it’s simply too precious!

  5. I just love the cover!

  6. If it’s like climbing a hill I continue; if reading the first forty or so pages is beginning to feel like pushing a large rock up that same hill Sisyphus-style, then I quietly forget it. Books are like people at a party. If there’s someone more interesting, excuse yourself and go talk to them.

  7. I haven’t attempted this book and don’t think I will end up doing so which is a good thing as it would take time away from other books I must read. I give a book 100-150 pages and if it isn’t grabbing me I move on…choice keeps me going, if I was on that desert island with only this book though it could be different.

  8. After hearing all the love it/hate it reviews, I picked it up myself. I like the writing, but have paused reading it in favor of others. To be fair, I had just finished The Book Thief and was looking for a lighter book when I started The Goldfinch. I am interested in finishing The Goldfinch, but need some lighter fare for a while. I’ll let you when I go back to it.

  9. I haven’t touched this book, I am a little put off with such a huge books! 😀

    Good, honest list of your impressions.

  10. oh bother, i have this on my TBR, and yet, all of the “meh” reviews from writer friends have me pushing it further down the stack. not a good sign. had the same reaction to CASUAL VACANCY, but i did not listen and still read it – found it dreadful. don’t think i want to waste my time, again.

  11. I don’t know what to say now.
    Reading what you’ve written about the book doesn’t make me want to pick it!
    The fact that the main character swears a lot is pretty off-putting!
    I am however curious enough to know why it won the Pulitzer,but I think I’ll read it later,someday….

    • I am becoming less tolerant of swearin, as it often detracts instead of adds to the overall quality of the plot or characterization. I’m not sure why it won the Pulitzer. Then again there are people who absolutely adored this book.

  12. Loved her first book, but never been tempted to read this.

  13. The ending is great and I loved the development towards the ending. There is an interesting point you raise, it could be interpreted as a dressed up YA novel.

    • I can’t decide if novels which feature teen protagonists are YA or adult in intention. I’ve read three so far which are directed towards adults, yet seem more YA in orientation. Then again To Kill. Mockingbird is adult although it is taught at the high school level. Hmmm

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