Review: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The description below from GoodReads does not describe what this book is about very well.

“A young boy in New York City, Theo Decker, miraculously survives an accident that takes the life of his mother.  Alone The Goldfinchand 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.” (GoodReads)

Nevertheless, what is true is that Theo’s journey in this book, The Goldfinch, does begin with him surviving an attack on a museum which takes the life of his mother – the most beautiful thing in his life.  And what happens to him immediately after her death is tragic in my opinion.  I was so taken by the sadness and, in a sense, brutality of what this boy has to deal with emotionally so early on in his life and worse so in the wake of his mother’s death.

The second phase of his life is totally destructive and shocking in its clear detail.  Tartt is an incredible writer and these scenes which I found both a bit dark and captivating could, without her skill to write simply but full of detail, have turned into a depressing mess of weirdness.  And you may well read it and wonder what this has to do with him, the painting, or the art underworld but it’s an integral part.  The Goldfinch follows Theo through his turbulent life, through every painful detail of what makes Theo the man he becomes in the end.  He is a testament to Tartt’s skill as a writer because there is plenty reason throughout for you to become less enamoured by Theo but you never do. You’re with him ’til the end because despite everything he has a good heart.

Set against the often ugliness of his life or circumstances you realise why the painting is so important to him not only because it reminds him of his mother but because in a sense it is his mother to him, the only beautiful thing he has in his life.  There’s a lot of action in this novel as well as a lot of introspection from Theo and I enjoyed both. The characters were all wonderfully fleshed and real to me.  I could imagine every one of them clearly, not just how they looked but more the way they were, their mannerisms, their speech, their reactions.  In fact I’m not sure I can put my finger on exactly what made these characters so like real people just that they were. Tartt is skilled.

In the third phase of his life, albeit less destructive than previously, you wonder if Theo is finally settling into a ‘normal’ life until he’s plunged into the art underworld and everything and everyone comes together.  There are some revelations that were unexpected.  In the end though there is resolution.  The only thing I could say to the negative is that the book could have been a bit shorter.  At 700 pages it’s fairly long but honestly I didn’t find it difficult to read at all.  In fact I thoroughly enjoyed this book and was immersed.  There were a few moments especially in the introspective moments where I thought maybe some could have been left out without affecting the overall mood of the book or the storyline.  All in all, the book is a great one.  Character driven and plot driven.  Very well written – I would say some of the best writing I have read this year.  I really enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it.


lilolia review rating 4 stars great


2 thoughts on “Review: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

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  1. This is a great review. I’m reading Goldfinch now, slowly so as not to miss anything. I found myself inside this story from the first page. Tartt does have a way with words. Thanks for the Goodreads’ link Pingback or I would have missed this.


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