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The Goldfinch: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction) Hardcover – October 22, 2013

4.0 out of 5 stars 43,270 ratings

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Editorial Reviews Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, October 2013: It's hard to articulate just how much--and why--The Goldfinch held such power for me as a reader.  Always a sucker for a good boy-and-his-mom story, I probably was taken in at first by the cruelly beautiful passages in which 13-year-old Theo Decker tells of the accident that killed his beloved mother and set his fate. But even when the scene shifts--first Theo goes to live with his schoolmate’s picture-perfect (except it isn’t) family on Park Avenue, then to Las Vegas with his father and his trashy wife, then back to a New York antiques shop--I remained mesmerized. Along with Boris, Theo’s Ukrainian high school sidekick, and Hobie, one of the most wonderfully eccentric characters in modern literature, Theo--strange, grieving, effete, alcoholic and often not close to honorable Theo--had taken root in my heart.  Still, The Goldfinch is more than a 700-plus page turner about a tragic loss: it’s also a globe-spanning mystery about a painting that has gone missing, an examination of friendship, and a rumination on the nature of art and appearances. Most of all, it is a sometimes operatic, often unnerving and always moving chronicle of a certain kind of life. “Things would have turned out better if she had lived,” Theo said of his mother, fourteen years after she died. An understatement if ever there was one, but one that makes the selfish reader cry out: Oh, but then we wouldn’t have had this brilliant book! --Sara Nelson

From Publishers Weekly

Donna Tartt's latest novel clocks in at an unwieldy 784 pages. The story begins with an explosion at the Metropolitan Museum that kills narrator Theo Decker's beloved mother and results in his unlikely possession of a Dutch masterwork called The Goldfinch. Shootouts, gangsters, pillowcases, storage lockers, and the black market for art all play parts in the ensuing life of the painting in Theo's care. With the same flair for suspense that made The Secret History (1992) such a masterpiece, The Goldfinch features the pulp of a typical bildungsroman—Theo's dissolution into teenage delinquency and climb back out, his passionate friendship with the very funny Boris, his obsession with Pippa (a girl he first encounters minutes before the explosion)—but the painting is the novel's secret heart. Theo's fate hinges on the painting, and both take on depth as it steers Theo's life. Some sentences are clunky (suddenly and meanwhile abound), metaphors are repetitive (Theo's mother is compared to birds three times in 10 pages), and plot points are overly coincidental (as if inspired by TV), but there's a bewitching urgency to the narration that's impossible to resist. Theo is magnetic, perhaps because of his well-meaning criminality. The Goldfinch is a pleasure to read; with more economy to the brushstrokes, it might have been great. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (Oct. 22)
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Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ 0316055433
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Little, Brown and Company; 1st edition (October 22, 2013)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 775 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9780316055437
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0316055437
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 2.4 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.55 x 1.9 x 9.65 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.0 out of 5 stars 43,270 ratings

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Donna Tartt was born in Greenwood, Mississippi, and is a graduate of Bennington College. She is the author of the novels The Secret History, The Little Friend, and The Goldfinch, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2014.

Customer reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on May 25, 2019
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5.0 out of 5 stars 4.5-Stars: Divine, Modern Dickensian Tale of Art & Fate
By Booksalottle on May 25, 2019
I loved Donna Tartt's 'The Goldfinch'. It is a novel I had anticipated reading for a long time, one which I had extremely high expectations for. I expected it to knock my socks off, and it did. From early on in my reading, it was immediately apparent that this was no doubt Tartt's magnum opus, proven by the fact that it garnered her the richly deserved Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2014.

With all that said, I must divide the novel's quality into two unequal parts: every plot development before the character of Boris was introduced is stellar, superb! Every plot development after the character of Boris was introduced and Boris was present for, was the one reason where this excellent novel almost became 4-Stars. The writing alone is 5-stars quality, but I despised Boris so much, he almost spoiled the book for me at certain parts.

Tartt's writing is exceptional, and emotions, raw and deep, resonate off every page. From the crisp, rhythmic opening scene in Amsterdam, to Theo's mother illuminating up off the page, my literary senses perked up from page one and were always fully engaged. The story has a breezy yet sophisticated charm to it, with laugh out loud humor intermixed with sobering adult themes. From the precocious observances of a young Theo and Andy, to the jaded but wise adults, - I found laughs aplenty. There is of course plenty seriousness, but Tartt expertly softens it with occasional jest. This dual combination works terrifically, making for a spirited reading experience.

Because the story of Theo, the boy who comes in possession of a Dutch Golden Age painting, the titular Goldfinch, is a bildungsroman, it became clear that there were Dickensian motifs peppered throughout the novel. Sometimes it is subtle, other times it is overt, with heavy allusions to 'Oliver Twist' and 'Great Expectations'. At any given time, it felt to me that Theo is a composite of Oliver Twist and Philip Pirrip (Pip), Boris is a composite of the Artful Dodger and Bill Sykes, Hobie is a composite of Mr. Brownlow and Joe Gargery, Mrs. Barbour is Miss Havisham, Pippa is Biddy and sometimes Estella, Kitsey is mostly Estella, and so on. Or at least that's how I interpreted the correlation between Tartt's characterizations and Dickens'. Tartt's use of the Dickensian motif is done well as it felt like a respectful homage, rather than a copy. The effect is never gimmicky or contrived, but is rather seamless.

As with many tales by Dickens, Tartt also gives us the bitter along with the sweet in the story of a young boy coming of age and finding meaning to his lfe. I appreciated the complex, angel/devil characterization she gave Theo, with multiple unsavory character traits and dubious actions. Lessons abound where in Theo's coming of age trek through his early life, he becomes a source of frustration for me the reader. The ostensibly bright, once thoughtful, and spirited young Theo detours down a questionable path. This is where the character of Boris comes in, leading me to dislike him immensely. As I read Theo's story, especially as he spiraled into debauchery and delinquency in Las Vegas, I could foretell the inevitable results of his stupid choices, choices mostly instigated by Boris. Unquestionably, fate dealt Theo a tough blow, but he himself makes no effort to go against the grain. He instead allows Boris to influence him. This turns to be a frustrating character development in Theo, but one that is stirring, nonetheless.

As we know of all Dickensian tales, Tartt also takes us through Theo's entire journey, ultimately ending at the cusp of his self-awareness, acceptance, and redemption. I must admit, It is hard to root for a drug using, love pining, art swindling rogue with dubious criminal tendencies. But yes, I was rooting for Theo the whole way. The beauty of it all being that for him to come out the other side, he had to discover the dirty parts of himself and the dark aspects of humanity. I thought Tartt did a wonderful job juxtaposing the two dualities. We're all saints and sinners in our own lives.

Lastly, unlike other readers, I did not mind the novel's length at all. As a matter of fact, I reveled in it. For me personally, as long as the themes and characterizations are sharp and taut throughout, the longer the better. Other than hating Boris' character, and disliking the delinquent time spent in Las Vegas, one other aspect I would have liked to be different was the tone of Theo's philosophizing towards the end. His waxing poetic was a beautiful act of contrition, and self-awareness. However, it did seem much too profound for someone so young as he. Not necessarily with additional plot, but I wished Tartt had aged him into his 30s or 40s by the book's close when he came to all his personal conclusions. His self actualization of his fate felt more like something someone older would have come to realize, years after living life. Rather than from him at age 27. His philosophizing did work, but coming from someone as young as he, it felt a bit far-fetched. Nonetheless, this section was wonderful to read, as it lovingly fused the importance and meaning of beauty, art, life's split second choices, in all our lives.

I enjoyed reading 'The Goldfinch' as it is marvelous and multi-faceted, shining bright in countless ways. Each character in the novel, even Boris that I loathed, imparted a sharp lesson as I read, the plot is rich and lively, the bildungsroman themes are prevalent and effective, the prose is gorgeous and evocative. All this while the beauty and mastery of classical art emanates off each chapter as the story unfolds. I knew some facts about Dutch Golden Age paintings, but in reading this novel, Tartt taught me even more, in a manner that is accessible and applicable. For me, this entire combination makes 'The Goldfinch' an exquisite read: magical in some parts, heart-breaking in others, wholly sublime in full. Highly recommended. 4.5 stars out of 5.
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