Monday, October 21, 2013

The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt


Recently abandoned by his father, who moved out of the family home in Manhattan, Theo Decker, 13, and his beautiful mother are making it on their own in New York.  After Theo gets in a little trouble at school, he and his mother have an appointment at school to discuss his issues. With some time to spare before the appointment, the two stop off at the MET for a Dutch art exhibit.  Theo is not at an age where he appreciates fine art, but he does notice a pretty red-headed girl about his age and an elderly man who catches his attention. He is curious about the girl and the mysterious older man she is with.  So when his mom suggests they visit the gift shop, Theo declines to stay close to the young girl, and in an instant, his life is forever changed.

After an explosion and the rubble which resulted,Theo is unable to get to the gift shop or locate his mother. He does find the now dying older man (Welty) who gives Theo a ring and tells him to take it to a place called, Hobart and Blackwell and to "ring the green bell", when he arrives.  Welty also tells him to take the small painting which had fallen to the ground after the explosion. The artwork is a priceless 17th century, one of a kind painting which depicts a little yellow pet finch that is chained at the ankle, "The Goldfinch.".

Dazed in the aftermath, Theo now sees his life defined as "Before Mom and After Mom".  He is haunted by what has happened; he blames himself for his mother's death. Child protective services intervenes and Theo's journey to adulthood takes a most unconventional course.  From living with a wealthy school friend on Park Avenue, to being dragged off to Las Vegas by his loser, gambler father and his girlfriend Xandra, Theo's life is in chaos. The only comfort for him is, The Goldfinch painting, which he clings to like a security blanket. 

Theo has kept the painting hidden since the tragedy, for it reminds him of his mother.  But, what can a young man do with a priceless piece of art like The Goldfinch? For a number of years, he keeps it safe, and gazes at it occasionally in private, until years later when, a seedy friend from Theo's teen years in Las Vegas resurfaces in New York and has a plan.

In The Goldfinch, the reader is transported on a spellbinding journey into the lives of The Barbours, the wealthy, Park Avenue family that took young Theo in. Hobie, the antique dealer and former business partner of the elderly man who died in the explosion, who gives Theo a place to live and work when he returns to NYC. There is also unpredictable Boris, who Theo befriends in Las Vegas after Theo's loser dad and girlfriend take him from NYC to live with them.  Both boys are left to fend for themselves, and except for the occasional left overs that Xandra brings home, their consumption seems to consist primarily of food they can steal or alcohol and drugs. 

Told from the first person looking back, The Goldfinch followsTheo from the ages of 13 to 27.  From New York to Las Vegas, back to New York and even on an international journey to Amsterdam.  The author creates a memorable cast of characters and imagery. The characters are so well drawn, the writing is fabulous and both colorful and suspenseful.  For me, it novel was, at times, an emotional journey. My heart went out to Theo, even when he made some poor choices along the way. I loved the way the novel drew me into the world of art, and although it can't be considered a happy story, it is a story that, for me, had a very satisfying conclusion.  So far it is probably one of the very best books I've read in 2013, even though it was well over 700 pages -- I never felt bored. Be sure to read this one. 

5/5 stars

(Thanks to Hachette/Little Brown & Co and Edelweiss for providing me with an eGalley)

36 comments:

  1. Really, really, really looking forward to this one! Tried to convince my book group to read it as their next book but a few were daunted by the size - I figure if it's good enough, it holds your attention.

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    1. I can see a book group wanting to choose a shorter novel, but the story is so good, the pages practically turn themselves.

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  2. I am loving this book - the writing is fantastic!

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    1. Glad u r enjoying this one Kathy. I highlighted so much while reading on my Kindle.

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  3. Oh I don't know if I want to do a 700 page book! The story sounds wonderful though. Do they ever explain the old man and the red headed girl?

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    1. The 700+ pages was not difficult as the story was so compelling, and yes, the old man, Welty and the read - headed girl, Pippa are revealed in more detail.

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  4. 700 pages is a lot but the story sounds really good. My first Donna Tartt book did not do anything for me but I'd certainly like to give this one a go.

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    1. I loved The Secret History, liked Little Fried and of course, loved this one - all hefty reads.

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  5. It is great to see that you enjoyed this one! I've just started it and hope I enjoy it as much as you did.

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  6. Adding it to my list, Diane. I enjoyed your review. At 700 pages I'll make it a kindle read!

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    1. Smart to get it as an eBook and avoid hand cramping Mary:)

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  7. So glad to hear this is a 5 for you as I loved The Secret History with all my heart and plan on buying this.

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    1. I adored Secret History, and Little Friend was good but this was my fav,

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  8. Donna Tartt is pretty much my hero so it's no surprise that 250 pages in I'm absolutely loving this. Trying to read slowly so I can stay with Tartt as long as possible since it will be another 10 years before she writes another.

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  9. I've been curious about this book since I first heard about it, and you make it sound like a must read, Diane! I will be adding it to my wish list.

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    1. I was so happy to have hot a home run with this one - just love her style.

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  10. I do love lengthy books that draw me in and wrap themselves around me...and this one sounds like that kind of story. Thanks for sharing...and now I must read this!

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    1. I can't believe 3 of my fav authors each have a chunky book releasing right now: Tartt, Wally lamb and Amy Tan:(

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  11. Yours is the first positive review I've read.

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  12. When anyone puts a book on their best of the year list, I take notice. I also love chunksters.

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    1. I'm not crazy about chunksters UNLESS they are by an author I have come to enjoy.....such as Tartt, Wally Lamb, Amy Tan (all new books within a 2 week period)

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  13. This sounds wonderful. I admit the number of pages kind of makes me not too thrilled about reading it but it's definitely on my list. Great to hear it's one of the year's best for you!

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    1. Don't be put off by the number of pages -- at times they seemed to turn themselves.

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  14. I can't wait to read this one!!!

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  15. Wow, you've made me really want to read this book. Great review!

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    1. Thanks Anna, I doubt that you would be disappointed. Time well spent.

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  16. Oooh, sounds good. Now that it's cold outside (booo) I should have more free time to settle in with this one.

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  17. I'm so glad this one is good! I've been curious about it and it sounds pretty incredible.

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  18. I didn't realize this was such a chunkster! But if it's a good book, which it sounds like it is, then all those pages don't matter.

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  19. So I read The Secret History years and years before, but don't remember much about it. I may give that another read before I read this one.

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  20. Rats! I was sold until I saw the page count. It looks good. It will probably wait until Gage is in school ;)

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    1. Don't stress about the length - I flew through it! There is so much going on and so many unique characters that it doesn't feel that long while you're reading.

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    2. Don't stress about the length - I flew through it! There is so much going on and so many unique characters that it doesn't feel that long while you're reading.

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