I am a proud member of the Better World Books affiliate network – the ethical online bookshop. Please note that this post contains affiliate links.
Synopsis: Donna Tartt’s masterpiece The Goldfinch follows the story of Theo. Aside from his recently-gone-AWOL father, Theo is a relatively normal New York schoolboy. That is until his life is irrevocably shattered at the age of thirteen when he loses his mother in a suspected terrorist attack at a museum.
As a cast of wayward characters makes their way into and out of Theo’s life, he clings to the art his mother loved as a way of maintaining a connection with her. However, this remnant of stability will also be shaken when the art he treasures so much draws Theo into a spiral of criminal activity.
I’ve had The Goldfinch on my shelf for over a year but have been put off by the length, feeling it would take a while to get into it. It did take a few chapters for me to be completely gripped, but around page 150 I was sold. This is pretty good for an 800+ page tome, as it’s the equivalent of being captivated by page 60 of your average novel!
Initially, I felt a little bewildered trying to define what I was actually reading. I kept looking at the book thinking ‘What are you? Are you literary fiction? A bildungsroman? A thriller? A family saga? What are you trying to do?’
My advice to anyone looking to read this book would be to just go with it. Tartt’s refusal to fit within defined genre boundaries is what makes The Goldfinch so special.
Tartt has an ability to switch with ease between suspense, rich description and naturalistic dialogue. Her writing provokes reflection and contains something to resonate with anyone, but the gripping plot means it never feels laboured.
The Goldfinch also does not shy away from the messiness of life: dysfunctional families, questionable decision making, or semi-repressed adolescent sexuality. This honesty lends itself to a beautiful, raw style.
I was particularly moved by the relationship between Theo and his friend Boris. It illustrates the powerful attachment that can lie beneath the everyday routine of people who are close to one another. It’s exciting that a film of The Goldfinch is due to be released in September! Boris is the one character I really, really hope the filmmakers nail.
In the beginning, Theo is presented as a relatively unextraordinary person, yet throughout the novel, his intense and philosophical view of the world starts to emerge. There is a sense that the author shares this perspective, which gives a meaningful energy to every tiny detail of the novel.
Although the plot can be loose at times, I felt its significance lies more in the message conveyed rather than the events themselves. My life mantra is ‘Some things are meant to be’ so I loved the cautious positivity and faith in ending up in the right place that I took away from the story.
Tartt has also carried off that elusive feat: a stunning, poignant ending. The plot isn’t overworked or forced to a neat conclusion. Instead, the ending is a continuation of the whole novel’s core wonder at the world that can transcend the cynicism born of individual struggles.
“And in the midst of our dying, as we rise from the organic and sink back ignominiously into the organic, it is a glory and a privilege to love what Death doesn’t touch.”
Read if: You want to be absorbed by an encompassing emotional epic.
Buy Now on Better World Books:
If you enjoyed The Goldfinch, I’m convinced you’ll also love The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan.
Have you read The Goldfinch or any other books by Donna Tartt – what did you think? Do you have any recommendations for literary fiction I can read next? Let me know in the comments – I would love to hear from you!