Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Title: The Goldfinch
Author: Donna Tartt
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: October 22, 2013
Genres: Literary fiction, Art, Contemporary
Reviewed by: Ellen Fritz
Ellen’s rating: 5/5


A young boy in New York City, Theo Decker, miraculously survives an accident that takes the life of his mother. Alone and determined to avoid being taken in by the city as an orphan, Theo scrambles between nights in friends’ apartments and on the city streets. He becomes entranced by the one thing that reminds him of his mother, a small, mysteriously captivating painting that soon draws Theo into the art underworld.


This book has a sense of immortality about it; think Shakespeare and Dickens. An explosion, a brief and emotional encounter with a dying man, a stolen work of art, and the loss of his mother sets the course of Theo Decker's life. A work of art in its own right, The Goldfinch is a colorful, often painful, journey of fear, uncertainty, guilt and healing undertaken with the main character.

It mainly being about art, antiques, and one picture in particular, this book reads like a work of art, or perhaps even a whole gallery filled with paintings. It doesn't, however, end with the visual descriptions, but goes on to include sound and smell—a reading experience involving almost all the senses. The author takes the time to vividly describe New York City, Las Vegas, and Amsterdam, as well as the characters in such detail that I was completely transported into their world.

The brilliantly crafted, extremely realistic characters will stay with me for a very long time. No superheroes or princess-like heroines in this book, but rather a cast of real and often thoroughly flawed humans, swept up in circumstances beyond their control. Theo, however, makes a few very bad choices in cases where he might have had the opportunity to improve his life.

Boris, Theo's Las Vegas friend, had me very much in two minds. On the one hand I hated him for getting Theo into drug addiction, theft and other nasty scrapes, but on the other hand I felt that he was, more than often, responsible for forcing Theo to move in a different direction. Said direction wasn't always necessarily the right one but at least it got Theo from one place in his life to the next.

Hobie, another key influence in Theo's life, as well as Pippa, are the only two characters, except for Theo's mother in the beginning, who truly bring out the good in Theo. Theo's romantic life is a confused mess but fortunately the romantic part of this book plays out in a logical, satisfactory way. Whether it is what you, the reader, would want, will very much depend on the taste of the individual reader.

Although there are several scenes of action; car chases, shoot-outs, and blackmail in The Goldfinch which will definitely get your adrenaline going though this is not a tale filled with hype and nonstop action. Rather, this is a sensitive, often heartbreaking tale of Theo's journey from a thirteen-year-old boy through difficult teen years to the man he is to become. A man who must make reparation for previous mistakes and come to terms with that which he cannot change. 

The author truly gives the reader a look into the mind of her main character. I particularly thought that the description of his inner battles with addiction, suicide tendencies, and the "what if" moments we all have, were wonderfully written. The references to art, literature, and the similarities between characters in this book and certain Dickens characters, bring a richness to the story.

The Goldfinch is one of those books that will be on my to-be-reread list, and the characters will stay with me for years to come. I recommend this book as an absolute must read for anybody needing a reading experience with depth, some profound philosophy, unforgettable characters, and a great deal to ponder.



Donna Tartt (born 23 December 1963) is an American writer who received critical acclaim for her two novels, The Secret History (1992) and The Little Friend (2002). Tartt was the 2003 winner of the WH Smith Literary Award for The Little Friend.

The daughter of Don and Taylor Tartt, she was born in Greenwood, Mississippi but raised 32 miles away in Grenada, Mississippi. At age five, she wrote her first poem, and she first saw publication in a Mississippi literary review when she was 13 years old.

Enrolling in the University of Mississippi in 1981, she pledged to the sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma. Her writing caught the attention of Willie Morris while she was a freshman. Following a recommendation from Morris, Barry Hannah, then an Ole Miss Writer-in-Residence, admitted Tartt into his graduate short story course where, stated Hannah, she ranked higher than the graduate students. Following the suggestion of Morris and others, she transferred to Bennington College in 1982. There she met Bennington students Bret Easton Ellis and Jill Eisenstadt.

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