Fiction (Released October, 2013)
Bottom Line: Read it.
Link to this book on Amazon
Thirteen year old Theo Decker survives an NYC bombing that kills his mother and connects him with the prized painting (“The Goldfinch”) that plays a central role in the rest of his life.
The Goldfinch is one of my favorite fiction books of 2013 and I liked it even more than The Secret History, Tartt’s debut novel (which I loved and is on my Book Club Recommendations List).
It is hard for me to boil down what this book is truly about because it covers such a wide breadth of themes and I also don’t want to ruin the suspense. Perhaps what best captures the essence of the story is Theo’s statement that he had “the conviction that my whole life was balanced atop a secret that might at any moment blow it apart”.
Tartt includes so many disparate topics/themes (art / art crime, drugs, antiques, gambling, mental illness / trauma, love, friendship, and family dysfunction), while still making it all feel necessary to the story. In this way, it reminded me a bit of Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore. The other thing that reminded me of Penumbra is that much of Goldfinch takes place in a dark and somewhat mysterious antique shop (like the old book store in Penumbra) and the mentor type relationship Theo finds with Hobie, the proprietor of the antique shop, is reminiscent of Clay Jannon’s with Penumbra.
Tartt managed to combine two completely different types of books (a coming of age story and a suspenseful mystery) and actually make it work. The book is initially more focused on Theo’s coming of age and then builds into a suspenseful art / antique crime mystery. I’m not at all interested in art or antiques, so I was worried I wouldn’t like The Goldfinch as much as others did, but Tartt managed to keep me engrossed anyway…the mark of a truly great story teller.
As evidenced in The Secret History, Tartt can be incredibly dark at times and, while The Goldfinch is certainly somewhat shadowy (or at least operates in a shadowy underworld for much of the story), it has elements of warmth, love, and some good hearted characters to balance out the darkness.
I admit that I worried about the 770 page length, but I shouldn’t have! I think the setting changes and sheer breadth of things going on keeps things interesting. However, the length is keeping me from adding The Goldfinch to my Book Club Recommendations List, but it would be a fabulous selection if your club is especially ambitious. The Goldfinch is going on my Best Books of 2013 / Holiday Gift Ideas and Time to Kill lists.