Tartt’s Pulitzer winning third novel has been the centre of a bit of a literary tut-tutting. Readers love it, literary critics think it’s Harry Potter for adults — because that’s the worst insult they can think of. If someone said that about I book I’d written, I’d dance naked in the street, and then buy a yacht. I’m pretty sure that’s what Donna Tartt did, too. Because the high opinion of critics doesn’t buy a French Riviera holiday, I can tell you.
At the age of 13, Theo loses his mother to a terrorist attack and acquires a stolen artwork. Both haunt his formative years, and lead to innumerable bad decisions which spiral into a drug-addled adulthood. I’m a big fan of bad decisions, they make for entertaining reading.
Tartt moves us through the narrative from Amsterdam, to New York, to Las Vegas. The drug-hazed, desert wandering, Vegas scenes were the most compelling for me — coupled with the relationship that Theo builds with Boris. I liked Boris a lot. Hobie too, though he was too nice. Speaking of nice: the ending is too good to be true. Yes, there are some bittersweet notes in there, but if we’re being honest, they’re mostly sweet. Call me sadistic, but I’d have liked Theo to suffer a bit more in the end. And no, don’t give me that ‘hasn’t he suffered enough’ crap. He has not.
In short, I enjoyed it. And the story has stuck with me — especially the phrase “what the motherfuck”, which I keep trying to find a way to use in casual conversation. The occasion has not yet arisen.
I doubt I’ll ever read it again, the book is just too long. By the end I was ready to move on to other things. I am keen to read her first novel, The Secret History, because no matter what the haters say about The Goldfinch, they all agree that that one is sublime.