What’s it all about?:
A young boy in New York City, Theo Decker, miraculously survives an accident that takes the life of his mother. Alone and determined to avoid being taken in by the city as an orphan, Theo scrambles between nights in friends’ apartments and on the city streets. He becomes entranced by the one thing that reminds him of his mother, a small, mysteriously captivating painting that soon draws Theo into the art underworld.
What did I think?:
The Goldfinch is the third novel from Donna Tartt, her previous offerings being The Secret History and The Little Friend both of which I enjoyed and this latest is her first novel in eleven years. I can only hope that she doesn’t keep us waiting that long for her next as I am becoming quite a fan! Our main character is a young boy called Theo Decker, whom when the story opens is having a few problems at school and is dreading his mother being called in for a “chat.” This never happens in the end because unfortunately, while perusing the art in a gallery, a bomb goes off, killing his mother and throwing his young life into chaos. Before the explosion, Theo and his mother had been looking at a painting of The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius (which actually exists and was painted in 1654) and he is at once mesmerised by its simplicity yet extraordinary beauty. Then as Theo comes around post-explosion amongst a heap of rubble, he comes across a dying elderly victim of the bomb – Welton “Welty” Blackwell who begs Theo to deliver a family heirloom, a ring, to his business partner. Theo also misunderstands Welty’s last requests and takes the painting of The Goldfinch with him also as he finds a way out of the gallery. This has the effect of setting into motion a sequence of events that will influence Theo’s life in ways he could never have dreamed of. Wherever he goes whether it is to live with his hopelessly alcoholic and gambler father or to explore new avenues in a antiques business with Welty’s partner, the painting is taken and protected at all costs until it comes to a point where coming clean about the picture may cause more harm than it is worth.
Having read The Secret History fairly recently, I was aware of the beauty and spirit of Donna Tartt’s writing, but it was fully confirmed for me while reading this book that she must be some kind of genius. Other reviews have suggested that some parts were slightly unnecessary and the story could have been a lot shorter, but I prefer to make up my own mind and thinking about it, I wouldn’t want to cut anything out at all as I think it would take away something special that is important to the plot as a whole. I did warm to Theo as a character quite quickly, as thank God he wasn’t perfect – the author wrote a real human being, complete with flaws and the ability to make mistakes. Some of the other characters were really lovely as well, I especially liked (to dislike) Theo’s father and thought Theo’s friend Boris was brilliantly realised, and at times completely hilarious. As for the plot of the novel, I could go on for ages about what happens, to whom and in what order, but it would take me quite a while as there a lot of different strands and interesting developments as Theo grows up to be a man, that the author manages to keep track of and I wouldn’t want to spoil anything for those that haven’t read the novel and want to discover Theo’s story for themselves. At times it can also be a bit of an emotional journey which I didn’t find with The Secret History and was definitely a welcome surprise and quite rewarding in my opinion. I have the hardback edition and it was lovely to find your own miniature Goldfinch painting on the inside cover of this novel which seems more alluring the longer you look at it. Is this book for everybody though? Maybe not, but for me it is a wonderful piece of fiction that I think everyone should give a go, even if you’ve never read any of Tartt’s work previously or are a bit sceptical/put off by the size of the book.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):