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Everyone Else is Reading It: The Goldfinch

Normally it’s my personal book policy not to start the year off with a hefty read. I’ve found that I get distracted by how long it’s taking me and start to think about how this will likely affect my year end book reading total. A couple of years ago it took me three weeks (three weeks!) to get through George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda at the beginning of the year and ended up one book short of my 65 book goal.

I know – I need to get out more.

But everyone kept talking about Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and I started to feel really left out so I read it. All 771 pages of it.

If you want a proper review of this book, you should probably just click here  because this is a better review than I could ever possibly hope to write.

But if you’re after some general thoughts and feelings and observations about one of the most reviewed and talked about books in recent memory, then read on.

The+Goldfinch

OK fine, a bare bones summary for those of you that aren’t clicking the link (but you’re missing out): Theo Decker’s mom dies suddenly and he’s left in the care of a succession of guardians: his friend Andy’s family in a fancy Manhattan apartment, his alcoholic gambler father and his cocktail waitress girlfriend in Las Vegas and finally James Hobart, an antique dealer back in New York. We follow Theo’s story from the death of his mother, bouncing around these different homes, struggling with drinking and addiction, with one very special object in his possession: Carel Fabritius’ The Goldfinch.

First, as pointed out by the lovely and always right Jennine,  this book is physically beautiful. The pages are super creamy and soft, the cover so perfectly captures the crux of the story and the reproduction of The Goldfinch painting on the inside? Flawless.

Do you remember several years ago when Tracy Chevalier wrote The Girl With A Pearl Earring and everyone lost their minds over it and suddenly that painting was uber famous? I feel like something similar might be happening with the Fabritius painting, The Goldfinch (coincidentally housed in the same museum, the Mauritshuis in the Hague – if you haven’t already, go there!). People have definitely seen the painting before but I think it’s one of those ones that used to fade into the background after you walked away. Now, I think people will search it out.

This book was a commitment. And sometimes I wasn’t sure that I was getting anything out of it. Because it’s such a long book, Tartt has the luxury of really spending time spinning out the tale. For a while it felt like the real story was taking a while to get started. And there are sections where Theo is talking about how he got to where he is, his thoughts, feelings, sensations etc., and it feels kind of self-indulgent. At the same time, why wouldn’t it be – that’s the way Theo has learned to be.

I will say that it did all wrap up very neatly. If you’re hankering after a story with a proper resolution, this is it. The time spent getting there will for sure have been worth it. You will have all that time to marvel at Tartt’s skill at weaving such a complex story with so many genuine characters. One thing that struck me most about her skill was her ability to describe movement, or fighting. Usually in those scenes, I tend to pick out the most important action but overall, I have trouble following the action. With Tartt masterfully creating the scene, I was able to follow every move.

In the end, the beauty of the book and the splendour of the writing, reminded me that a world without beauty is pointless. We are attracted to these stories because they remind us that although life is completely flawed, it’s a beautiful thing all the same.