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Monday, July 14, 2014

Book Review: The Goldfinch

"The Goldfinch" is intimidating.  It is a 771 page hardcover that really weighs down my tote bag on my commute to work.  I think that's the reason I put off reading it for so long.  But "long and heavy" is no longer a valid excuse when the novel is on every best list and then wins the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.  All signs point to read.

Donna Tartt's novel is an epic with Dickensian tendencies.  Theo Decker can't seem to dig himself out of the hole that was created after he survives an explosion at an art museum.  His mother, unfortunately, does not make it out alive and Theo hops from home to home with little sense of permanence.  He first lands at the home of a friend, members of New York City's society who are happy to do the right thing but can't manage to show emotion.  He then lives for several years in Las Vegas where the one person who should care most about him practically forgets his existence.  By the time he returns to New York he is living in a fuzz of self medication.  The one constant is his obsession with a painting he saw in the museum.  As his last connection to his mother, the painting is the driving force behind every reckless decision Theo makes.

Theo, like almost all the characters in the book, is deeply flawed.  Also like all the characters in the book, he just can't seem to help himself.  He is his own worst enemy but seems to be content in knowing so.  His pursuit of The Goldfinch is his search for happiness which, like the painting itself, he may not be destined to have.

Subtracting a point because the last few pages literally spell out the book's themes for the reader.

4 out of 5 stars.

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