Last night I finished reading Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. This has been quite a journeyed book for me. I downloaded in on my Kindle at some stage in the last months of my pregnancy and it came to the maternity ward with me for all the free time I had while birthing the baby.
I could not get enough of it. I gobbled it up. I gushed to my book loving friends: YOU HAVE TO READ THIS, IT’S AMAZING! And they agreed with me. I pointed out how it reminded me of Catcher in the Rye, one my favourite books of all time. I loved the character, his youth, his forlornness as he made his way through his series of unfortunate events; what would ever become of him?
I loved the other characters too; Pippa, Hobie, Boris. I noted that the author said a lot in just a few places and scenes. There wasn’t much movement in the book, yet it sucked me in. It captured so well the long drawn out days as a teenager, lounging around with nothing to do, passionate about your best friendship, dealing with your family, dabbling in drinks and drugs.
After the baby arrived, the Kindle was tossed, with the rest of my life, somewhere beyond the bedside locker. I didn’t have time for it anymore. I didn’t have the headspace. I didn’t care about Theo Decker. Or his blimmin painting.
And then, like all things, life began to return to normal and I found myself on the odd night, reaching for the Kindle and giving it another go. Things went well for a while. There was a lovely settlement in New York, a comfortable set-up which I liked. I was happy for Theo. I was happy for Hobie.
We plodded along, clicking through our pages, learning details about things we never really thought about before. Antique furniture. Fine art. Taart , it seemed, either had master degrees in these areas or had researched really really hard and wanted to cram everything she knew about both subjects in for the readers’ pleasure. I just felt a bit stupid. Yet I admired her knowledge; in the same way I have grudgingly admired pub quiz teams who win and punch the air and look all smug with themselves.
Soon enough, we were reaching the end. Truth be told, I couldn’t wait to be done. But; it would take a while. There was some dragging. There were some conclusions and a very disappointing end to one significant relationship. That was where the book really started to fail for me. I couldn’t believe that Theo would just give in like that. (We’re talking Kitsey)
And then there were what can only be described as the WAFFLE PAGES.
Little concluding waffles are fine. Especially if you’ve just written an amazing book. You’ve held your reader engaged for weeks; you’ve earned your philosophical ending. But I was tired. The baby was asleep on me, I had reached 98% on the Kindle and I really wanted to finish it. Two things happened.
1) The battery warning came up. Never a good thing with Kindles, they don’t hold out long like the trusty mobile phone
2) Somehow in a small mid grab for baby, the Kindle went flying and directed itself between the headboard and the mattress. It landed under the bed, near the wall in an area only accessible by spiders and toddler children
And so it took two more nights. One to retrieve the Kindle and another to charge it. Furiously I clicked through the pages, willing it to end, not understanding why there were more and more pages, when nothing happened and the book still wasn’t over.
A diary appears. The character is writing in a diary. Since when? And for whom?
I did that eye thing, where you let it fall over the page, read the first and last line and pretend you’ve absorbed what’s in the middle. I knew I wasn’t missing anything. I just needed that Kindle to reach 100%.
Finally, it came. I was done. I had completed the book. Always a proud moment. And first thing I did was to Google ‘The Goldfinch’ and ‘Ending’. Lots of complaints. Lots of readers not too impressed. But they still marked the book four stars out of five. Which is where I would place it too. Four stars for a fresh, engaging, literary-like read, with one giant star knocked off for the long drawn out, meandering and unfulfilling ending.
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