I really enjoyed this novel until almost the end. It has a Dickensian thing going on: lots of detail, lots of eccentric characters; and even though it takes forever to describe all the details of almost everything, it's a pleasantly immersive experience. And for all the discussions of art and the sad emotions of the protagonists trying to come to terms with the disappointments and confusions of his life and the interesting questions about various kinds of fakery, there's also a surprisingly melodramatic thriller plot going on, and gangsters, and bloody acts of murder--an entertaining combination of introspection and violence. But then, horrifyingly, right at the end, the main character goes into about ten pages of confident speculation about the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. Tartt might well have felt that, after having spent so long writing so many many pages, she deserved an opportunity to tell us all what we we should be thinking about our lives and the world we live in. But somehow, this final sermon or advice column or post-Victorian pep talk ends up making the entire novel seem like just an excuse for the pontificating--an act of self-indulgence on the part of the novelist that dissipated my interest in everything that went before. I'm not going to go into what Tartt thinks the meaning of life is, because honestly, as soon as I realized what was going on and how the novel had turned into a how-to-be-human tract, I just stopped paying attention to anything but my horror at the blatancy of it all. Conclusion: a really good novel suddenly turning into a pretty bad one. If I were to give advice to other readers, i might say: read up to about page 760 or so--and then resist the impulse to continue onwards. That way, you'll have read a better novel than the one I read.