The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
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.1
I have a way of collecting books for my to be read list that involves some choices with too many thoughts and memories colliding to make a mish mash of origins that I don’t know what is real or what is completely made up. There is something in my mind that tells me that The Goldfinch was on a list of fiction comparable to that of the Hunger Games which tipped the scales in it’s favour, despite it’s completely non-Hunger Gamesesque cover which screams non-fantasy fiction.
New York city, a thriving hectic city, and the home of our main character, Theodore Decker. Theo lives with his mother in an old apartment complex full of character with memorable and friendly doormen. When parents separate it can be a traumatic experience for children, but for Theo and his mother it was a release and a new beginning. No more tip toeing around his fathers drunken mood swings after one day he simply left and never came back. While on their way to Theo’s school to meet with his principal, the two get caught in a rain storm and seek shelter at the New York Museum of Art, one of Theo’s mother’s favourite places. What started out as a safe haven becomes a tomb of wreckage when an explosive goes off within the museum. Theo wakes to find himself in a mess of rubble, everything covered in white dust completely foreign looking. The strewn bodies throughout the room barely discernible only by their unnatural shift while making his way through the rubble. An elderly man, badly injured catches his attention and Theo stays with the man during his last moments of conscientiousness and delirium. The man gives Theo his ring with instructions to somewhere while Theo struggles to understand, while also being directed to take a painting, to save it from the destruction. A painting him and his mother had been looking at only moments ago, The Goldfinch.
The painting becomes a safe haven, an escape, and a burden as Theo is forced to leave everything he has known and move across the country to Las Vegas, where he finds his father has been living a life completely hidden from him and his mother. After meeting a boy named Boris at school, the two become friends instantly which turns into years of underage drinking, drug use and stealing.
The story is broken into pieces following the sequence of events after the death of his mother and spanning over many years. Theo’s struggle to cope with loss, the burden of the painting, and the release it simultaneously offers him, along with handfuls of prescription drugs.
The Goldfinch is a very well written novel with countless characters that are so unique and well defined, they truly make this story. The thing with audiobooks is the reader’s voice can really make or break the experience for you. Regardless of the story, if the readers voice bothers you, it’s something that will nag at you through the whole story. The Goldfinch from Blackstone Audio was read by David Pittu. David was able to add another dimension to the characters giving them that much more personality by each having their own voice, high pitched, throaty, accented and all the perfect mix making each one special and memorable. There are voices, characters and lines from the book that will probably stay with me, some making me laugh creating an inside joke that no one else will understand or be able to enjoy having not listened to the book themselves. With that being said Tartt strings the reader/listener through many different emotions and scenarios. There were times when I was completely engaged, drifting into day dreams or completely lost as to what point was trying to be made. The beginning of the story may have started with a bang, quite literally, the story ended with one, sending it completely out to left field and losing me entirely. There is a long string of events that become completely irrelevant and for nothing when things miraculously spool together to form an ending. Tartt takes the time to turn the last moments of the story into a continuous spewing drivel of pretentious rambling that sent me on a deliriously drifting, drug hallucination that the main character existed in for much of the story.
There are moments, characters and pieces of the story which I enjoyed, but as noted there are those that completely ruined it for me as well. Theo’s character has a tendency to respond blankly with responses like “What?” and “Sorry?” which only progress more and more as the story continues making it seem more of a result of his continuous and increasing drug use. The last portion of the story becomes so frustrating that conversation goes on and on, between Theo and Boris, Boris interjecting with random bits of information that don’t fully form anything to help us understand what is going on while being interrupted by Theo’s continued “What?” “Huh?” “Sorry?”. How about you just shut up and listen, Theo? It comes to a point that you can remember the good and the bad of the story, but when trying to analyze the events they become muddy as you start to wonder what was the point of it all? What about this? What happened with this person? What will happen now? and Do I care?
While I choose to remember the characters and memorable events that I did enjoy, the things that ruined it for me made the story seem to last forever and leaving it as something I can’t say I would ever recommend, but would be willing to add the points I did enjoy to those who have survived the journey as we all become part of the same club of The Goldfinch survivors.
- Book summary courtesy of The Goldfinch Goodreads page.