There is no denying Donna Tartt's literary merits. After reading The Goldfinch, I wanted to check out this first effort, and I found the story enthralling. Having just come off The Magicians a few weeks ago, I found myself saying, "Ah, so here's the book that has the real characterization in it for that band of academic malcontents." Tartt provides a wonderful, full, well paced narrative that feels at times like Hitchcock (perhaps thinking of Rope), other times like Nabokov's Lolita. I read a lot of empty genre fiction, so to have a story that luxuriates in character and dialogue to the degree that we have here felt wonderful. Some readers will be turned off by Tartt's style. Her sentence structure and vocabulary feel like something from another era. I get the feeling she is a writer with a deep knowledge of books and literature with a weakness for beautiful craft over modern expediency. The style suits most of these characters, though unfortunately, perhaps not Richard's middle class roots.
Readers looking for common themes with Goldfinch will find a slew of them: infatuation with an unobtainable female, juvenile criminality, and wise, yet over-trusting, elders. Goldfinch is a much better work all around and her growth and wisdom as a writer shows in many ways in that later work. But this is still a fantastic story.