Review: The Goldfinch
Author: Donna Tartt
By Rhys Tarling
Winner of the hallowed Pulitzer Prize for fiction award, and the third novel by widely acclaimed author Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch is epic in its length and scope, yet intimate in its focus on the growth of the protagonist, Theodore Decker. It’s a sophisticated, emotionally vivid story that is as readable and thrilling as the best Harry Potter novels.
The style is written in a retrospective first person POV, with Theo recounting the story of his life thus far; from a happy 13 year old New Yorker boy with a mother who loved him, to the suicidal, drug addicted mess that he ultimately becomes. The chain of events that lead to such a sorry state began when Theo and his mother are caught in a bombing at an art gallery. In a traumatised and confused state, Theo steals a priceless painting, The Goldfinch, and this act sends reverberations throughout the rest of his life.
Theo is such a well-rounded and interesting character that this book could get a pass on him alone – he’s a tragic, good-hearted guy who seems sadly oblivious to his self-destructive tendencies and failings. But Tartt is a writer of extraordinary talent and so the other characters, particularly Boris, a cosmopolitan Ukranian boy, best friend, and toxic influence and just plain toxic, to Theo, and Hobbie, the kindly seller of antiques and a father figure to Theo, are just as vividly realised and sympathetic. Yes, they are crucial to the mechanics of the plot and Theo’s development, but they are compelling outside of these functions. Which is a stunning achievement for a novel written in the first person.
Make no mistake, this is a voluminous tome that demands an investment of time and energy. It’s worth it.