If I could have my way, I’d be a full time actress with a respectable West End reputation, a cute flat in London and a cockapoo named Buffy. I would also be an established author, meaning that whenever I wasn’t receiving glowing reviews for my portrayals of Ophelia or Little Voice, I could be writing and getting lost in a world entirely of my own creation. Unfortunately, neither of those scenarios are reality (sob), but that doesn’t mean I can’t get lost in a world of someone else’s creation. Especially when that someone is the incredibly, phenomenally talented Donna Tartt and her masterpiece, The Goldfinch. This book is a piece of art in itself, one of those sublimely written stories that is so rich in meaning and provocative of thought, that once you’ve finished it, it’s difficult to believe that Donna Tartt hasn’t had some sort of supernatural access to your thoughts and feelings. It is intense and beautifully written; so scrupulously planned and paced, that it grips hold of you and refuses to let go.
The story is about New Yorker Theo Decker who, at aged thirteen, loses his mother in a bombing at the Met museum. During the aftermath of the explosion, and in his confusion, he takes his mother’s favourite painting, a priceless little picture named The Goldfinch, and thus the story begins. There is so much depth to this novel, so many intricate details and nuances, as it depicts Theo’s life from the moment he loses his mother to the present day, when he is in his mid twenties and struggling with the complexities of his life. It follows him from his stay at a friend’s glossy and dark apartment on Park Avenue, to his unreliable, selfish, gambling-addict of a father’s home on an expansive, yet deserted new-build estate in Las Vegas, to his determined return to New York and the ramshackle antique shop and home of Hobie, a man he is intricately linked to from the tragedy at the museum. The settings are rich and thoroughly described, creating a dramatic sense of realism. As Theo gets older and the story progresses, we see the painting pull Theo into the criminal underworld, where pieces of such value can be used as leverage in dodgy deals. Theo is rather malleable in these dark situations, and despite his fears and anxiety, we can feel his recklessness burning beneath the surface as though he is trying to punish himself. Every negative decision he makes, he traces back to that fateful day in the museum. This novel, ultimately, is a heart wrenching exploration of guilt, as Theo blames himself for his mother’s death and therefore feels that every negative event in his life is justified.
When I finished reading this wonderful book, I couldn’t believe that it was merely a work of fiction. The characters are so intricately written and so multifaceted that you can picture every quirk, every flippant gesture and all of their varied mannerisms. You can hear each of their voices as clearly as if they were speaking directly to you, you can see every facial expression as vividly as if you were standing in the pages amongst the characters yourself because Donna Tartt is utterly magnificent. The story is perfectly paced, enthralling and meticulous. It’s emotionally charged and it relentlessly captures human life, along with those massive, unanswerable questions that we each carry with us, in all its glory and its beautiful brutality. This book will stay with me forever. It is a stunning study of emotion and if you haven’t read it, I implore you to do so.
Have you read this book? If so, let me know your thoughts in the comments! Thanks for reading,