The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch April 3, 2014


Just finished Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. It’s the story of young boy’s coming of age after his mother dies tragically and he finds himself in possession of a masterpiece–an obsession not unlike that induced by “the precious” in the Lord of the Rings. Tartt’s writing is vivid and flourishing, at times over the top, especially given that it’s presented as the narrative of the young boy-to-drug addict who’s tripped out for most of the book. I want to identify with somebody in this novel, but everybody is so whacked that it’s hard to find a handle (not that I have it all together by any means).

In one sense Tartt does affirm the power of love and beauty, of loss and despair and how these emotions so overwhelm that escape becomes critical if survival is to happen at all (not that survival is necessarily the goal here). Theo (the protagonist), surely loves his mother and the masterpiece as much as his own life, if not more. Each comes to represent a moment in time, each a memory of a moment, yet moments that transcend all the fleeting and vapid moments that otherwise total up Theo’s own existence.

As soon as you thought the book was going one way, it went another. Undoubtedly this is one reason it’s stayed atop the bestseller lists. There’s some outrageous experiences along the way–some days one after the other. Theo is torn by loyalty to several odd characters, all of whom make the world out to be a very small place. And in the end the tidy, nick of time solution surprises too. Given how easy it was, why go through everything else?

But isn’t that so much of life? If only I’d taken a minute longer to think instead of simply reacting to everything.

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