Books flowered with praise and awards can be outstanding books. Donna Tartt landed in just such a place with her 2013 book The Goldfinch. Setting aside such criticism as is leveled by critics quoted in a Vanity Fair piece from July 2014, the 784 pages of The Goldfinch won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, a finalist position for the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award, and another finalist position for the 2014 Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction.
(Donna Tartt wrote The Goldfinch).
In an echo of the historical Delft Explosion of 1654 that destroyed the painters studio, took many of his paintings, and finally ended the life of Dutch painter Carel Fabritius, the story of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt begins with 13-year old Theodore Decker surviving a terrorist explosion at the art gallery where his mother has died. The visit to the gallery serves as an introduction to Theodore, or Theo, as he struggles with the ultimate truths of coming of age after losing his mother, many of the misfortunes of that loss coupled with a home life straight out of a Charles Dickens novel, and the added consequences of stealing Carel Fabritius‘ painting (The Goldfinch) from the museum in the confusion following the museum attack.
(The painting The Goldfinch by Dutch painter Carel Fabritius).
In the immediate lead-up and aftermath of the museum incident, Theo is taken by a girl named Pippa, who he first admires from afar then, over the course of the novel, gets to know in fits and spurts. The difficult adjustment period following the death of Audrey Decker, Theo’s mother, sees Theo at first interact with James “Hobie” Hobart and the Barbour family in New York City. Pippa and Theo stay find solace with Hobie, and in part with the memory of Hobie’s former business partner Welton “Welty” Blackwell. Welty played a significant, if limited first person part, in the larger tale. Before moving out-of-state, Theo would movie in with the Barbour family.
(An impression of the painting Carel Fabritius‘ painting The Goldfinch alongside the painting).
The period of years where Theo moved to Las Vegas to live with his biological father Larry Decker, and Larry’s girlfriend Xandra, were absolutely devastating for Theo. The period with the Barbour family was emotionally unsatisfying for Theo and the children of that household, yet the depravity experienced by Theo and his friend Boris Pavlikovsky took the concept of emotional neglect to physical neglect coupled with drug abuse and other problems. The friendship shared by Theo and Boris can hardly be called that, and when tragedy befell the situation in Las Vegas, Theo took it upon himself to trek back to New York City by bus with the family dog that was introduced into the picture in Nevada.
(Dutch painter Carel Fabritius).
In his time back in New York, Theo reunites with Hobie and, in spurts, with Pippa and the Barbour family. Many levels of broken life commence for Theo and the particulars from his past in New York around the inability to have loving relationships. A great deal of dysfunction ensues, with many aspects of interpersonal life getting broken. Many people live more by appearance and the application of love to the beauty of objects. Boris later is reintroduced into the larger story, and the echoes of Charles Dickens are really strong. What becomes of the stolen painting The Goldfinch from all those years ago continues to color the tale. The way that Donna Tartt portrays much of this through first person narration of the inner feelings and thoughts of major characters is significant, compelling, and works well in the overall tale.
(The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt).
The focus of the novel is at times about misplaced loyalties, about the potentially destructive expression, or lack of expression, of feelings in relationships that are really a shame. Main characters are well established and given full voices of expression in connection to the larger theme of love, the way that it is intertwined with appearance, objects, and less than ideally people. The theme that things can turn out well despite coming from an ugly and broken place, too, is explored. The larger expression of these items all works well together, and merits my rating of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt at 4.25-stars on a scale of one-to-five stars.
Matt – Saturday, April 6, 2019