April 24


The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

It’s been a long time between reviews for me as I have been head down bum up in some seriously big books.  Starting with The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

Talk about starting with a bang – literally.  This story opens with a terrorist bombing in museum in NYC where the main character, 13 year old Theo Decker and his mother were visiting.  Sadly Theo’s mother did not survive the explosion leaving him in a state of grief I have never heard described so vividly in my life.  For those of you who know Donna Tartt (from The Secret History fame) you may have heard some of the hype about this much anticipated book.  Released just before Christmas last year, it is still very much on bestseller lists around the world and has just been slapped with the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

For me, the writing in the early stages of this book detailing the lead up to the explosion, the blast itself, the damage and the grief that follows is so clear, gripping, forceful yet moving I might as well have been going through it myself.  It was disorientating in all the right ways and much of it will stay with me just like the tinnitus that stuck with young Theo throughout the story.

It’s after the explosion that things start to get messy and I don’t just mean the plot.

The second part of the book starts off when Theo is forced to move to Las Vegas to live with a father he loathes in an empty house far away from all that he knows and treasures. It’s here that he meets modern day street urchin, Boris Pavlikovsky, who would go on to be “one of the great friends of my life”.  Like him or loathe him, Boris is a fantastic character whose own circumstances put Theo’s into perspective and sets a tone for bad things to come.  Theo’s life in Las Vegas revolves around drugs, alcohol and the ever increasing pressure of having to deal with a priceless piece of art (“The Goldfinch”) which he had taken with him after the explosion which killed his mother. The relationship between Theo and Boris is a novel in itself and I can see English tutors of the future dissecting quote after quote, including the ones in SMS.  Just the thought of that discussion makes me want to study English all over again.

With everything in its favour, I am sad to say the story lost serious momentum towards the end through too much repetition and unnecessary detail involving antique restoration, drug use and the seedy world of international art theft.  It was as if the author got so engrossed in that incidental detail that she lost sight of the narrative that made the book so compelling in the first place.

The saddest part of all however was that the Theo I fell in love with at the beginning of the book bore no resemblance to the Theo at the end.  Although maybe, just maybe, that was what it was all about.