Did You Hear? An Audio Book Review of ‘The Goldfinch’ by Donna Tartt

Presented by Audible

Listen in on your own:  buy The Goldfinch or get a free download here.

There isn’t much I didn’t do while listening to the audiobook of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. But that’s what happens when you’re with a recording for 32 and a half hours: you take it along for your runs through the park, fill your with it apartment to make the task of cleaning your winter closet less laborious, and plug in during your to- and from- subway ride to work. (That’s the short list.)

And, if you’re going to dedicate nearly a day and a half of your life listening to a single recording—the equivalent of 784 pages—your guide through the text better be good. Enter narrator David Pittu, an actor who’s done a fair share of children’s and mystery books, but isn’t terribly well known for performances on literary tombs like Tartt’s Goldfinch.

Pittu’s reading can sometimes seem slightly monotonic and withdrawn as he tests out the main character of Theodore Decker, a 13-year-old who loses his mother at the Metropolitan Museum of Art following a terrorist attack on the gallery. But as Tartt digs into Theo’s emotional quandary, so too does Pittu sink his teeth into the character, quickly convincing the listener that no other performance would suit the book.

As Theo navigates life after his mother’s death, he meets a cast of characters who influence him in different ways—all of whom Pittu portrays differently. Particularly spot-on is the performance of Boris, Theo’s semi-Russian best friend, who infuses a unique life into his sections of the book. Also notable is the atmosphere Pittu creates as Andy stays with the Barbour family, emphasizing exactly how much of an outsider Theo is, and how his role there fluctuates.

There are plenty of reason to be captivated by The Goldfinch: its place atop the best of 2013 lists you’ve been reading for the past few weeks tell you everything I don’t need to. When I was listening along with reading on my Kindle, mostly on the train or reading in bed, I was at full-attention. Due to the novel’s sheer length, however, I found myself doing many other things with the audiobook on, which had me distracted from the story at times—this, the only drawback.

Still, I wouldn’t have tackled this massive novel without the audiobook—I just wouldn’t have had the time to sit down and read it all this month. Because, hey, reading while literally Christmas present shopping? Turns out, I ended up buying someone The Goldfinch.

Listen in on your own:  buy The Goldfinch or get a free download here.

Six New Books To Get Excited About This Fall

You may not be headed back to school this September, but that’s all the more reason to take some pleasure in autumn’s crop of promising new literary work—you won’t have to pull an all-nighter writing an essay about any of it. Still, there’s far too much on the syllabus of life: how could we hope to wade through all those middling volumes bearing the names Auster and Lethem, the drab legal thrillers and schlock-horror, the overpraised debuts of a thousand MFA-accredited milquetoasts? Well, I did that for you and came back with just the good stuff. Here are the six forthcoming books for which you’ll want to keep an eye out.

The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt
If you haven’t read Tartt’s first novel, The Secret History, a classical Greek murder tragedy set among classics majors at a small liberal arts college, you really should get to it before they make it into a long-threatened terrible movie. Once you’re done with that, The Goldfinch, a massive tome and Tartt’s third in twenty years, will be in bookstores: it’s a safe bet that once you start turning the pages, you won’t stop until the entire mystery is unraveled. Theo Decker’s mother dies in an explosion at the Metropolitan Museum, connecting him forever to a particular painting, and the suspense spools out from there.
 
The Traveling Sprinkler, Nicholson Baker
Baker is noted for his brilliant and experimental nonfiction (Human Smoke) and pornographic romps through the sexual imagination (House of Holes), but he may be best when dwelling on his real subject: nothing. This novel reintroduces the character Paul Chowder, the writer’s-blocked narrator of The Anthologist, who once again struggles once again to make the meanings in his head take the shape of words. As always, his failure will be what’s compelling.
 
The Brunist Day of Wrath, Robert Coover
Another sequel, this one from a fabulist hero still operating at the height of his powers (check out “The Colonel’s Daughter,” his latest New Yorker story, for a taste). This thousand-page novel builds on Coover’s first, The Origin of the Brunists, which describes the formation of an apocalyptic cult around Giovanni Bruno. Apparently the new work gets inside the heads of at least 150 characters, exploring all manners of fundamentalism. Sounds delightfully dizzying.    
 
Bleeding Edge, Thomas Pynchon
As if you needed reminding, Pynchon’s 2001: A New York Odyssey is due out in two short weeks (we’re waiting for Amazon to tell us that it’s shipped). Here are a bunch of great reasons to let your anticipation reach a fever pitch.
 
Half the Kingdom, Lore Segal
One of the quiet masters of her time, with a fascinating oeuvre equal to her jaw-dropping biography, Segal returns with her first new novel in six years, a dark comedy exploring an unusual rash of "copycat" Alzheimer’s disease in a New York hospital. Few writers can promise to be so sharply funny on the realities of death and decay, and still Segal never flinches, warm and dispassionate at once.   
 
A Prayer Journal, Flannery O’Connor
In the mid-1940s, at the famous Iowa Writers’ Workshop, O’Connor apparently kept a journal devoted solely to matters of her Catholic faith (which, as her fans know, was always integral to her fiction). If you aren’t bowled over by the idea of reading what amounts to O’Connor’s correspondence with god almighty, I don’t know what will light a fire under you.