- Hardcover: 775 pages
- Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1st edition (October 22, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0316055433
- ISBN-13: 978-0316055437
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.8 x 9.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (25,103 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,100 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Goldfinch: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction) Hardcover – October 22, 2013
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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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Top Customer Reviews
Tartt deserves credit for daring greatly in this book. It's hard to center a long novel on a fairly unlikeable character, and even harder when that character is also the narrator. In Theo Decker I felt she was trying to get at the ways a severe psychic injury plays out over a lifetime, and for the first half of the book I was fascinated by Theo even when I didn't like him. And Tartt does lay the groundwork carefully for his later misdeeds, particularly in Theo's unwanted resemblance to his father. But once Theo becomes an adult (in years if not in maturity), he makes so many stupid decisions, and is so apathetic about his life generally, that it got increasingly difficult for me to care what happened to him. It's also hard to reconcile how Theo can act as he does while having the insights he articulates. I understand that this is part of what Tartt is trying to explore (why people don't do what they know, at some level, they should do), but I don't think it quite comes off here. Theo's character felt too inconsistent to sustain the whole novel.
The high points of the novel for me were Theo's life immediately after the explosion that kills his mother, when he is taken in by the wealthy family of a school friend, and his relationship with Hobie, the furniture dealer who takes him on as a kind of apprentice. As in "The Secret History," Tartt excels in showing the dark underside of wealth and privilege, and it wasn't a surprise when members of the wealthy family turn up later in Theo's life and play some decisive roles. As for Hobie, I wanted to read a whole novel about him, because the portions that describe his sense for furniture and his love for the past were some of the strongest in the book. Boris, the Russian-born friend Theo makes during his sojourn in Las Vegas with his gambler father, is also a vivid character, and I appreciated that Tartt took his character in directions I didn't expect.
It's the ending (and by "ending" I mean about the last 200 pages) that was the real problem for me. The violence and cross-continents chase scenes just didn't ring true. This part of the book, in which more "happens" in plot terms, was actually the hardest to get through. Tartt excels at rendering the inner lives of characters, but the action scenes fall flat.
I hate giving this novel a mediocre rating, because I appreciate the ambition it embodies and the parts of it in which Tartt's prose really sings. She's engaging some important questions about the power of art in this book, and the scenes that feature Theo thinking through his relationship with the purloined painting were moving and thought-provoking. The novel as a whole just doesn't measure up to its best components, sadly.
If you like self-indulgent descriptions of drug abuse and alcoholism, this is the protagonist for you. He wastes his life, takes advantage of characters who are kind to him in the wake of his tragedy, and gets buffeted around like an aimless boat adrift on a sea of boredom. Early on, I felt sorry for him. But after 500 or 600 pages, he still showed no signs of life and I got fed up. I only finished the book on the recommendation of a friend who insisted it got better. It didn't. Maybe every 75-100 pages, there was a brilliant line buried in redundancy. But not worth slogging through the verbiage to unearth a few tiny gems.
Wait for the Cliff Notes.
I found that I couldn't engage with the main character until a third of the way into the book and even then I couldn't care about him. About the only character that garnered any sympathy was Hobie, the partner of the man who also died in the bombing and , who took Theo in when he had no place to go. Hobie is the only stalwart character in Theo's life it seems and it's Hobie you care for when Theo betrays Hobie's trust in him.
The main character is a young boy called Theo. Theo is traumatized when his mother is killed in a bombing at a museum. Finding his way out of the rubble, Theo steals the painting of the Goldfinch that his mother had loved and aids a dying man who gives him a ring to give to his partner. From there Theo's life plays out in a series of misfortunes, drugs and drugs and more drugs, art theft, antique forgery and bad choices in general. If there is any redemption in Theo's story it is unbelievable as the prior 800 pages have told the reader that Theo reverts to drugs and lies whenever life gets to tough for him.