Hope you’ve had a great weekend! It’s been a while since I read The Goldfinch but as the film is coming out on Friday, I thought it was time I finally shared my review with you guys. I’ll admit that I was always more interested in reading Donna Tart’s other novel The Secret History than The Goldfinch, but after hearing that one of my favourite actors Ansel Elgort was going to star in the film adaptation of The Goldfinch, it made sense that that would be the first Donna Tart novel I embark on. Read on to find out what I thought about The Goldfinch.
It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.
As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love-and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.
The Goldfinch combines vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher’s calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.
“It happened in New York, April 10th, nineteen years ago. Even my hand balks at the date. I had to push to write it down, just to keep the pen moving on the paper. It used to be a perfectly ordinary day, but now it sticks up on the calendar like a rusty nail.”
The Goldfinch follows Theodore Decker over the course of around 20 years, from when he miraculously survives a bombing in an art exhibition to when he is a grown man. Theodore loses someone very close to him during the incident and spends his adolescence overwhelmed with grief. Things are made even more complicated for Theodore when he ends up with a valuable painting known as The Goldfinch, partly because of his mother’s love for it and partly because of an old man and girl he met in the exhibition. Following the bombing, Theodore stays with an old childhood friend in New York for a while. However, his father suddenly resurfaces after being absent from Theodore’s life for several years, and Theodore moves to Las Vegas. I won’t reveal too much, but things do not work out in Las Vegas so Theodore decides to return to New York, when he stays with Hobie, the friend of the man he met in the exhibition.
Although multi-dimensional, most of the characters in The Goldfinch aren’t very likeable, particularly Theo’s father and his girlfriend. Theo himself is a flawed character; I was sympathetic towards him at first but he becomes too consumed by guilt and grief, and some of his decisions are questionable. On the one hand, I did understand why Theo was drawn to the painting and wanted to keep it – The Goldfinch meant so much to his mother and he felt that by taking it he’ll be reunited with the old man and girl in the future – but on the other hand, it caused him so much trouble and it was basically all he could think about for several years.
“You can look at a picture for a week and never think of it again. You can also look at a picture for a second and think of it all your life.”
Apart from the protagonist, Boris is one of the most memorable characters in the book. Like Theo, Boris is quite impulsive, and they bond over their absent parents. It is through Boris that Theo discovers alcohol and drugs. After the second major incident in Theodore’s life, he decides to leave Las Vegas and return to New York, departing ways with Boris. Years later, Bros re-enters Theo’s life and reveals a secret he kept all this time. This puts Theo in a bit of a predicament, and Boris proves that he is a true friend to Theo by agreeing to help him.
“It was Boris I missed, the whole impulsive mess of him: gloomy, reckless, hot-tempered, appallingly thoughtless.”
At over 700 pages, there is no doubt that The Goldfinch is an overwhelming book and not for anyone who wants a light read. It’s bleak and requires an awful lot of patience. Nevertheless, there is plenty happening in the book to keep my interest (although I do think that the section during which Theo was in Las Vegas could’ve been much shorter).
Ultimately, The Goldfinch is a mesmerising coming-of-age tale of art, grief, friendship and crime. If you have the time – and patience – it’s worth checking The Goldfinch out. This book is a modern classic that is sure to be treasured by bookworms in generations to come.
Have you read The Goldfinch or anything by Donna Tartt? Are you planning to watch The Goldfinch when it hits the cinema? I know it’s got mixed reviews, but I’m definitely going to see it – if you saw Ansel Elgort’s recent Twitter post, you’ll know that he was devastated that The Goldfinch received a lot of negative reviews.