Author: Donna Tartt
On the intro page of The Godfinch, Michael Pietsh, CEO of LITTLE, BROWN & COMPANY publishers, writes:
“Written with a glorious, gorgeous language that makes Donna Tartt one of a kind, the Goldfinch is a work of uncanny genius. I hope you will love it as fervently as I do.”
I loved it as fervently as did Mr. Pietsh.
The Goldfinch delivers a clapper to the heart, drenches us in sweat, illuminates us, betrays us, sends us crashing to the shore and back up through the swells wet, dripping, panting, relinquishing life and embracing life as Tartt relentlessly presents a novel that can only be considered brilliant. The Goldfinch speaks of art, and is, in itself, a work of art.
Theo Decker, thirteen years old, lives with his vibrant, beautiful mother in New York City. His alcoholic father has left them, to their relief. Theo adores his mother and she adores him. An art major in college, Theo’s mother introduces him to the art that she loves. When Theo, a scholarship student, is suspended from school – he is not sure for what, although there are many reasons he knows, his mother is aghast. Theo has been spoiled by his teachers and allowed leeway because of his father’s abandonment, and he has taken advantage of it by hanging out with the small amounts of money and DVD’s. If Theo loses his scholarship, he is lost: his mother barely makes enough to pay their rent. On the day the school has requested a “conference” with Theo and his mother, they decide to go to the museum before the conference to see the Dutch master’s exhibit. There, they enter into the gallery where The Goldfinch sits on the wall, a masterpiece in miniature by Fabritius, Rembrandt’s student, Vermeer’s teacher.
A small goldfinch, shackled foot chained to a wooden wall mount
As Theo stares at the picture, enthralled, he sees a grandfatherly, well dressed man escorted by a little girl in red hair, and they are standing behind Theo and his mother, listening as Theo’s mother describes the mastery of Fabritius and The Goldfinch. Theo is fascinated by the girl, obsessed almost and watches as she and her grandfather walk around the gallery. Theo’s mother decides to run upstairs to see The Anatomy Lesson, and Theo’s entire life changes in an instant. A bomb goes off and suddenly Theo is left in a burned out room. As Theo comes to, he doesn’t know what has happened; the room is covered in debris and black air. His ears ring, he wonders who beat him up and he tries to figure out where he is. Suddenly he stumbles across the grandfather, and his face is ruined with only his eyes alive. He asks about the red haired girl, his granddaughter Pippa, but Theo knows nothing. He gives Theo his signet ring and says Hobart and Blackwell, ring the green bell. Theo holds him as he dies. As he reaches around, Theo’s hand falls on a board and through it he sees a small goldfinch. He takes the picture and puts it in his backpack, and strangles his way out of the building. He staggers home, thinking his mother will be there, but she has died in the bombing of the museum.
So starts the new and horrible life of Theo Decker.
He ends up back at the alleyway in New York, to the Antique store of Hobart and Blackwell, and Hobie, who is grieving his partner’s death, accepts the ring and tries to help Theo. One of Theo’s strange friends has a very rich family who takes him in, as they try to get him to his grandfather’s. But his grandfather does not want him. Suddenly it seems his alcoholic father and his new wife DO want Theo and he moves in with his father and the wife. As he is just beginning to know his father, he dies in an auto accident, Theo knows he will be sent to an institution, so he finds his way back to New York, where Hobie takes him in. There, he sees Pippa, who also survived the bombing, but she has severe injuries and he only sees her a few times.
As Theo carries the secret of the stolen masterpiece and his love for Pippa, his life becomes a morass of drugs and alcohol. He comes back to work for Hobie as an art dealer and sells fake antiques for real ones, without Hobie’s knowledge. When he is found out and blackmailed, Theo’s life becomes real.
Absolutely stunningly written, this monument of a novel creates a momentum of the fates and the fate of life as Theo scrambles to become who he wants to become and to overcome the devastation of his past. Tartt has offered up a magnificent novel, a must read novel, that creates a third dimension of both the art world and the novel and its characters. This is a Pulitzer contender for sure!
Mellifluous and tender, complex, and simply brilliant.
Ratings are based on a 5-star scale
Review by Broad “A” – Ava
We received a copy of this title for our book review. All opinions are our own
The Goldfinch is available on Amazon.com and booksellers nationwide