Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch is an ethereal modern masterpiece about a young boy whose mother’s death spirals the next 15 years of his life into the uncomfortable, dark, and dangerous unknown.
Theo Decker’s life is turned upside down at 13 when his mother is killed. His father ran off the year before, so he is taken to the wealthy family of his childhood best friend. This tragedy and Theo’s homelessness – both figurative and, at times, literal – kick start a life that he never would have imagined for himself. One filled with utter loneliness, displacement, and unexpected relationships.
The Goldfinch tells the tragic story of Theo’s adolescent and young adult life after his beloved mother dies. The story focuses primarily on his teenage and twenty-something years and all the terrible decisions that are made for him and that he makes while trying to navigate life after tragedy.
Please take caution while reading The Goldfinch if any of the following topics may trigger you:
- Child abuse
- Animal neglect
- Self-harm / suicide
- Death / dying
- Mental illness / ableism
- Drug abuse / addiction
It’s difficult to put into words my love for The Goldfinch. This novel is utterly magnificent. At almost 800 pages, it leaves no important moment in this period of Theo’s life unturned. You’d think that with such a long novel, Tartt could have covered Theo’s entire life after the accident, but with wisdom and mesmerizing writing, she is able to home in on this pivotal time period in his life wherein so much tragedy, heartbreak, and miracles take place.
The Goldfinch is a dense book – it is so thorough and precise and absolutely never boring. I spent the entire novel, and most of the week after finishing, trying to pinpoint why this book didn’t bore me; what about Tartt’s writing was so magically enthralling. Unfortunately, I’ve come up short. There is some unnamed quality that she manages to employ that brings Theo’s life into perfect, fascinating clarity. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that his life is an absolute mess and that so many things go wrong for him over the course of these 15 years.
The characters… oh, the characters. They are so richly written and developed. To love, hate, root for, and cry over the characters in this novel is a gift, and they will forever be stamped on my heart. The effect that they have on Theo, and on the reader, is surprising because initially so many characters feel minute. There’s no way of telling how tremendously they ultimately affect Theo’s life, and how quickly and earnestly the reader becomes attached to them.
If you read one giant book this month, this year, this lifetime – let it be The Goldfinch. This novel is so moving, fascinating, and engrossing in a way that cannot be duplicated. I feel bad for myself that I can never experience it with fresh eyes again. Literary fiction with a healthy dose of both plot- and character-driven moments, this novel is for everyone.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my thoughts on The Goldfinch. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the novel in the comments or at my Instagram, @bookmarkedbya!