The Goldfinch

Reception

The Dutch translation of The Goldfinch (Het puttertje) was published a full month before the English edition, to overwhelmingly positive reviews. Daily newspaper de Volkskrant printed a five star review and called it 'a Bildungsroman written in a beautiful and often scintillating style. (...) A rich novel and an impressive reflection on sadness and solace. And about the crucial, timeless role of art therein.' [3] De Limburger and Cutting Edge[4] also gave five star reviews with De Limburger suggesting "Donna Tartt has written the best novel of 2013. It will completely blow you away." [5] Another Dutch newspaper, Het Parool [6] sums it up as a 'beautiful, exciting novel, filled with fascinating characters'. Belgian weekly magazine HUMO [7] called it the book of the year and the news website NU.nl praised Tartt as a 'writing magician who is generous with detours, reflections and characters.'[8] Praise also comes from Elsevier notes "Donna Tartt’s third novel is worth all the commotion. The master storyteller is back! Het puttertje is superior literary entertainment." [9] Nederlands Dagblad also commends the writing in the novel, saying "In Donna Tartt’s new novel, nothing is just there. Everything is connected in a subtle way, every detail matters. This is a beautifully written tragedy, with some lighter moments." [10] While Trouw [11] compares The Goldfinch to The Secret History and The Little Friend—"Donna Tartt’s new novel, like her two previous books, is filled with strong emotions and experiences, caused by human interactions and drinking and drug abuse. Tartt writes about these matters in a breathtakingly elegant manner."

A minority of Dutch reviews were more mixed. NRC Handelsblad only rated the book two out of five stars,[12] writing that it was 'like reading a twenty-first-century variant on Dickens', with the characters being 'cliché' and not fleshed-out.[13] Vrij Nederland and De Groene Amsterdammer were also critical, arguing that the book was too drawn out.[14] "De Telegraaf" argues that it is a "rich, very readable novel." [15] This is echoed by Financieele Dagblad's assessment that "Donna Tartt is an extraordinary writer and Het puttertje is a beautiful and rich novel." [16]

The Goldfinch was published in English by Little, Brown and Company on October 22, 2013;[17] the Swedish edition also appeared in October,[18] and it is set to be published in over thirty languages across the world.[19] Early reviews from the US praised the novel, with the trade publications Kirkus and Booklist both giving starred reviews. Kirkus describes The Goldfinch as “a standout” [20] while Booklist comments “Drenched in sensory detail, infused with Theo’s churning thoughts and feelings, sparked by nimble dialogue, and propelled by escalating cosmic angst and thriller action, Tartt’s trenchant, defiant, engrossing, and rocketing novel conducts a grand inquiry into the mystery and sorrow of survival, beauty and obsession, and the promise of art.”[21] Stephen King has also admired the novel writing "Donna Tartt is an amazingly good writer ... it’s very good."[22] Further reviews in the U.S. have celebrated The Goldfinch, with Michiko Kakutani praising the Dickensian elements in her rave review for The New York Times commenting "Ms. Tartt has made Fabritius's bird the MacGuffin at the center of her glorious, Dickensian novel, a novel that pulls together all her remarkable storytelling talents into a rapturous, symphonic whole and reminds the reader of the immersive, stay-up-all-night pleasures of reading."[23]

Woody Brown wrote a laudatory review for Artvoice.com, describing it as a "marvelous, epic tale, one whose 773 beautiful pages say, in short: 'How can we? And yet, we do.'" Brown added, "Major plot points — in fact, every change in the story that matters — are dictated by apparently random chance. But this ostensible arbitrariness cannot be reconciled with the truth; namely, that Theo's life has a poetic trajectory, that he is often saved in one way or another, that a chance convenient meeting on the street can (and does, several times) forever alter his existence." Brown concluded, "This novel is an extraordinary achievement, one completely bereft of any vanity on the part of the author or anything apart from the demands that truly great fiction makes on its vessel."[24]

The novel has been an international bestseller, spending over thirty weeks on the New York Times bestseller list[25] in the U.S. and on the Sunday Times hardcover fiction bestseller list in the UK.[26] It has had the same success in translation, debuting at number one for Editions Plon[27] in France in January 2014[28] where it was also critically acclaimed by Le Monde as "a great bewitching novel"[29] with Donna Tartt described as "a novelist at the top of her art" by Le Journal du Dimanche,[30] "masterful" by Télérama[31] and Le Point raving "Comic and tragic, cruel and tender, intimate and vast, Le Chardonneret is one of those rare novels that require cancelling any social obligation."[27] In Italy, Rizzoli has reprinted fifteen times since its March 2014 publication and the novel climbed to number ten on the bestseller lists there.[32]

In mid-2014, Vanity Fair reported that the book had "some of the severest pans in memory from the country’s most important critics and sparked a full-on debate in which the naysayers believe that nothing less is at stake than the future of reading itself."[33] James Wood, book critic for The New Yorker said, "Its tone, language, and story belong in children’s literature."[33] London Review of Books called The Goldfinch a "children’s book" for adults.[33] The Sunday Times of London said "no amount of straining for high-flown uplift can disguise the fact that The Goldfinch is a turkey."[33] The Paris Review said, "A book like The Goldfinch doesn’t undo any clichés—it deals in them."[33]


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