Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch

At the Atlanta airport just before our flight to NYC for a July 4th weekend away, I was torn about which Kindle book to purchase from Amazon to read on my long two hour flight. My list encompassed three or four works and, I'm sorry to say, what it really came down to was: which book was the cheapest? (Well, that and which book seemed to be the least depressing based on reviewer's commentary.) Donna Tartt's pulitzer prize winning 784 page The Goldfinch for $9 won in my 90 minute period of indecisiveness. So, I downloaded. What was the worst that could happen?

Well, as it turns out, the worst that could happen is exactly what happened to the main character of the book, Theo. On his way to a meeting with a teacher at his school for inappropriate behavior, he and his mother decide to stop and visit New York City's The Met and explore for a bit. Theo's mother is trying to instill her love of art in Theo, which is a work in progress. She shows him the ins and outs of paintings and describes in great detail all of the intricacies that make up her favorite pieces. Thirteen year old Theo pretends to listen but truly has his eyes on the beauty visiting the museum with, what must be, her grandfather. He wants to know more about her: where is she from? Why does she have an instrument with her? Shouldn't she be in school?

Deviating from his mother's plans, he decides to remain in the gallery for a few moments while she runs to look at an art piece in another room and then heads to the gift shop to pick out a gift for a colleague. It will only be for a few moments.

Then an explosion rocks the museum at it's core knocking people and art to the ground, killing some and wounding others.

Theo, in thoughtless desperation, grabs a painting and heads for his apartment, the place he is suppose to meet his mother if they were to ever get separated while in the city.

Waiting, waiting, waiting, Theo places the painting that he didn't mean to steal in his mother's bedroom where she will see it when she comes home. After all, she'll know what to do. She always knows what to do. As day turns into night, worry turns into much needed sleep … that is abruptly interrupted with the knock of the door early the next morning.

The next few years take Theo on a wild and crazy journey as he moves from childhood to adulthood from family to family across the US and even on a short vacation in Amsterdam. What will he do with the painting he stole? How will he get it back to it's rightful owners? Will he ever see the beautiful girl from the art gallery again?

"Things would have turned out better if my mother had lived. As it was, she died when I was a kid; and though everything that’s happened to me since then is thoroughly my own fault, still when I lost her I lost sight of any landmark that might have led me someplace happier, to some more populated or congenial life.

"Her death was my fault. Other people have always been a little too quick to assure me that it wasn’t; and yes, only a kid, who could have known, terrible accident, rotten luck, could have happened to anyone, it’s all perfectly true and I don’t believe a word of it."

I'm not going to lie and say that The Goldfinch is an easy read; it's not. About halfway through, you may want to give up. And, to be honest, I can't tell you not to. While I enjoyed The Goldfinch, the ending, for me, felt lackluster, as if the authoress was depriving me of something truly deep and aspirational. But, still, getting there was comforting and allowed me to feel that perhaps the main character would be okay, even after all he had been through.

Tartt's The Goldfinch is a thoughtfully written bildungsroman that should be read by anyone in need of a heavy summer read. With difficult topics like drugs, alcohol, deception, gangs, and sex, parents should think twice before offering the hefty novel to their teenage children. However, at the end of the book, you will feel as though the story is complete. It is definitely a worthy read if you have the time and energy to put towards it. Pick something else if you are merely looking for a quick beach read. :)

Get your copy of The Goldfinch here.

Have you had the chance to read Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch? Will you be adding it to your must-read list? Or do you prefer "lighter" books?

* I'm participating in Susannah Conway's August Break. Today's post was written with the word "morning light" in mind. :)

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