The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt - My Thoughts

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.

The Goldfinch is a mesmerizing, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate. - From Amazon

I don’t read a lot of literary novels. Don’t get me wrong, I DO read them—as I read a little bit of everything, will give anything a shot—but I tend to stick to reading suspense/thriller and horror for the majority of my selections. It’s what I love, it’s what I write—they’re the most fun for me. But, as any true reader does, the thing I want most out of a book is a great story, regardless of genre, page count, etc. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt delivered. In a big way.

I’d walked in and out of my Barnes and Noble probably half a dozen times over the course of a couple months, and every time there it was, sitting with its unassuming cover on the top of the Bestseller shelf. I even picked it up one time, spun it over, opened the jacket and read the synopsis, gawked at the Stephen King blurb, and thought: Maybe I should give this a try. But something held me back, was convincing me I wouldn’t enjoy this type of tale, and the book ended up back on the shelf.

Until the next trip.

A month later I’ve finished it, and I’ve learned one thing: Donna Tartt is one HELL of a writer. I’m serious, she’s the type of writer that spins words and sentences so flawless and full you can almost feel their weight (Note: This damn thing is a heavy book—hard to read at night in bed without fear of dropping it on your face). She plants you inside the book’s protagonist’s head and you stay there, rooted to his subconscious and learning every facet of him, letting him pull you along on the sad, depressing, sometimes humorous, and occasionally uplifting life he must survive. The opening section (This is not a spoiler) where young Theo (the main character) survives a bomb detonation in a New York art museum which kills his mother and others, and his subsequent hours-turned-days motherless and alone and bouncing from Social Workers to Friends, is perhaps some of the best writing I’ve read ever. I was blown away at how real and alive Ms. Tartt made this situation feel for me, the reader. I felt the despair in my gut, mourned with Theo. I knew then that purchasing The Goldfinch was a great decision.

When I was halfway through the nearly 800 page story, it won the Pulitzer. Even at only the midway point, I knew it was well-deserved, if not a unanimous selection.

It’s a long read, but it’s one to be savored, not rushed. The story, which spans over a decade, if I remember correctly, is essentially broken into three or four different sections, and while I’ve seen some readers express certain sections being boring, or unneeded, or even “ridiculous”—I found them all essential to what I think Ms. Tartt was going for. The beginning and end are especially fantastic.

Ms. Tartt is a slow writer, putting out one book every 10 years. If this is the end result, then I’d say it’s time well spent. Fortunately for me, I have her back titles to go through now. But come 2023-24—I’ll probably be on Amazon pre-ordering her latest.

The Goldfinch isn’t a book that everybody will enjoy (but what is?), as its pacing is not that of a thriller, its prose is extremely dense and thick, and, let’s face it, its size will intimidate some. But I highly recommend at least giving it a chance. Jump online and read the ebook sample from Amazon or Barnes and Noble, see what you think. My skeptical purchase turned into the best book I’ve read all year.