“Identity Theft”: I review (and LOVE) “The Goldfinch”

“Identity Theft”: I review (and LOVE) “The Goldfinch” January 17, 2014

in the Weekly Standard:

When we speak of “the permanent things,” we should mean the enduring, inescapable, and unfulfilled longings of the contradictory human heart: the helpless yearnings found across radically different times and cultures. And among these permanent desires, the need for home and the need for ecstasy stand preeminent.

Donna Tartt made her name with 1992’s bestselling murder-by-paganism tale The Secret History, which explored our longing for ecstatic release from the self. The Little Friend (2002) received less attention, perhaps because it’s a slow burn and doesn’t get lurid for a while. It has a few swooning moments—the protagonist practices holding her breath until she nearly passes out—but it’s a quieter book, a kind of Harriet the Spy meets The Name of the Rose, an anti-mystery that asks what kinds of knowledge are really meaningful and worth having.

The Goldfinch surpasses both. It’s her best thing so far.


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