I like Donna Tartt. I think she writes beautiful, dark, entangling stories, and perhaps for that reason I kept putting off becoming involved in another one of her worlds. But, eventually, I succumbed.
My intention was to write a long review here, like I do with everything. But truthfully, the book was so long and had so many elements and so many other people with more of an interesting perspective than I have have already reviewed it and it won the Pulitzer and it took her ten years to write and I’m like, who cares what I thought about it?
I’ll say this briefly, for those who do care: parts of it are great. Tartt’s language is dynamic. Her use of metaphor is sometimes so spot on it’s flooring. She’s magnificent at maintaining an even tone. There were parts that dragged (Zadie Smith has a theory that all books drag in the middle as a part of their story arc). About two-thirds in, truthfully, I was bored, and not just because I was on page 400 and still had a large chunk to go, but really because her sentence structure and the even tone I just mentioned had become so repetitive and monotonous to me that I couldn’t stand reading another word. And yet, something about her writing kept me reading on and on. This is perhaps the secret of Donna Tartt: she’s great, but not spectacular, though somehow she has discovered the ticket to keeping her readers turning the page even when they have become so sick of compound sentences with dashes they could choke on them. (I think a heavy dose of cliffhangers helped. Also the fact that it’s well-written lyrical fiction with a strong plot which, you know, doesn’t happen all the time.)
I didn’t really love the protagonist (did anyone?) I marked several pages where things were just weird. There was too much plot foreshadowing for my liking. I was entirely over reading about drug use and how totally awesome / totally terrible opiates are. Boris was probably my favorite character, but even he pissed me off. I didn’t get anything out of Kitsey and was annoyed whenever she had a deep thought. The other girl I was whatever about, too. I pictured her like that character in that scary story from when we were kids where the woman wore all those ribbons around her neck to keep her head from falling off her shoulders. You know who I mean. That girl.
I think I liked Theo’s mom the best and I only had her for the first tenth of the book.
There were voice and story elements that echoed Secret History so much I wonder if I read that book again now (which, at the time of reading, I very much liked) I’d even be able to get through it.
All this to say, I’m glad I read it, I get what the fuss is about, and I’m glad it’s over. Now it will sit happily on my shelf with all the other books I’ve read once and can say I’ve read and can talk about with slight authority and will probably never, ever read again.