Sunday, February 02, 2014

The Goldfinch (by Donna Tartt)

I haven't read The Secret History or anything else by Tartt, but I read too many great things about this novel not to give it a try. (Plus it's a Tournament of Books finalist, unlike basically every other book I predicted would be there.) Then I got hooked on the free sample from Kindle, and the rest is reading history! Or at least, a blog post's worth.

The novel is a bildungsroman centering around Theo, a boy who has a lifelong connection with the eponymous painting "The Goldfinch" after a childhood encounter that I won't spoil. (The first awesome thing about this for me is that I saw this painting on exhibit not long ago. I've never been to Den Haag, where the painting is, but the Mauritshuis was undergoing renovation last year, and sent out a traveling exhibit that I saw when I was unemployed. The main attraction was "The Girl with the Pearl Earring," but I was struck by a number of smaller pieces, among them "The Goldfinch." I love that not only did I see this painting, but I vividly remember standing in front of it, having a similar experience to Theo's. I could easily have breezed by it, but the subject matter of a little chained-up finch was very striking to me. Now we have a goldfinch feeder outside our window and see them all the time. Serendipity.)

The novel is a coming-of-age story told in a series of novella-length vignettes, covering different periods in Theo's life. (I loved the one set in Vegas the most, I think.)  The whole novel is 775 or so pages long, so there's a lot of meat there.The characters are rich, the description is wonderfully vivid ("When the wind blew, the umbrella by the pool snapped with a gunshot sound"), and Theo is a sympathetic antihero, which I always enjoy. I feel like she could have done better by the female characters, but I enjoyed Kitsey and Pippa throughout, in different ways.

This book is an investment of time, but I would say well worth it for a compelling and propulsive story, interesting characters, gorgeous writing, and a meditation on the nature of art and our relationship with art that will stay with you. Recommended.

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Blogger toolprincess said...

I loved Hobie and Boris and was absolutely captivated by POPchik continuing throughout the story into doggie old age.

11:49 AM  
Blogger mo pie said...

Yes, team Popchik!

8:18 AM  

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