Title: The Goldfinch
Author: Donna Tartt
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5
When I started off with The Goldfinch and saw it was a rather weighty 771 pages, to say I gulped is an understatement. I have to say though, once I was finished, I felt it was worth every page.
The novel starts with an un-named man hiding out in a hotel room in Amsterdam, scanning papers about a murder. I was instantly drawn in but, before I could even start to wonder what was going on, the story took me back 14 years to the life of Theo Decker, 13 years old, and suspended from school for smoking.
Early for a visit with his teacher, he and his mom stop off at Metropolitan Museum; his mom loves art and there is a piece she really wants to see – The Goldfinch of the title. Once there, they are separated. It is then the bomb goes off. In the confusion that follows, Theo makes it out – with the painting. His mom doesn’t. Nothing really seems to go right for him after that.
First he finds himself being put up by friends, the flown to Vegas by his absentee father, where he is completely ignored by everyone but his only friend Boris, before ending back up in New York at the door of an art-restorer who also lost someone in the bombing. Through all of this, the painting stays with; something that makes him afraid because it is stolen, but something he can’t let go of because it connects him to his mother. It is his anchor as his life unravels until a chance (or not so chance) meeting over a decade later with his childhood friend Boris.
The Goldfinch is a hard book to describe because it covers so many topics. More than anything, it is a book about loss and grief, but it is also a book about friendship and love. Theo is a lost soul that I felt for terribly. But it is not a sad book. There are some funny moments, some scary moments, some exciting moments as the book comes full circle to the opening chapter and just who is in the hotel room in Amsterdam.
Donna Tartt has a wonderful way with words and I felt she truly cared for and had thought deeply about these characters. Nothing about them felt random or didn’t seem to fit. She is also able to use her words to create a sense of place. I felt the heat of Vegas, the seediness of Amsterdam. I know other reviews I’ve read have said the book is too long and I can see it wouldn’t be for everyone but it didn’t bother me. It allowed the story to build slowly and things to play out as it felt they should. Somewhere along the line, I found I was staying up later and later to finish The Goldfinch and can’t rate it highly enough.