Tuesday, November 4, 2014
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Published October 2013 by Little, Brown, and Company
Source: bought this one for my Nook
Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his longing for his mother, he clings to the one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.
As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love—and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.
Because, hey, why not completely forget to review the biggest book you read this year, one of your favorite books of the year, one of the best book club choices we've ever had? While I can't say I can any longer speak to the specifics of the book, it has really stayed with me, even after all of this time. So maybe five months later really is the time to put down my thoughts.
Let's just put it out there - even though this book won the Pulitzer Prize, a lot of critics didn't much care for it. They called it "overwritten" and "Dickensian." Those critics are right to an extent; Tartt could easily have cut at least 50 pages and nothing would have been lost (I'm looking at you Las Vegas!). In that way, I'd say it was Dickensian in a bad way (at least Dickens had an excuse - he was getting paid by the word!). On the other hand, it was Dickensian in so many great ways - an orphan boy, dubious guardians, shady friends who may not be the best influence, changes in fortune, and the girl our hero just can't stop loving.
Tartt's writing is impressive. I'm not sure I've ever read a book that was better able to capture the feel of a setting. I swear I could smell dusty smoke after the explosion; Vegas felt desolate and lawless; and New York was two entirely different places - the shining Big Apple, bustling and bright when Theo first lives there but on his return darker, more dangerous, more stifling.
There were so many things I loved about this book: considering how Hobie's benign neglect may have gotten Theo into much more trouble than he might have found himself in with another guardian, the way Tom Cable's and Boris' reappearance made me question the reliability of the narrator, the tiny details and the big, big characters. And then there's a REALLY BIG twist that I did not seeing coming at all. Neither did I have any idea how the book was going to end. Would there be any kind of a finality to Theo's relationship with The Goldfinch?
Despite it's flaws and it's ridiculous length, I really do think I might find myself, someday, rereading The Goldfinch. And that's the biggest compliment I can pay a book.