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Summary and book reviews of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The Goldfinch

A Novel

by Donna Tartt

The Goldfinch
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2013, 608 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2015, 784 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

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About this Book

Book Summary

Composed with the skills of a master, The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America; a story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the enormous power of art.

Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

The author of the classic bestsellers The Secret History and The Little Friend returns with a brilliant, highly anticipated new novel.

A young boy in New York City, Theo Decker, miraculously survives an accident that takes the life of his mother. Alone and abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by a friend's family and struggles to make sense of his new life. In the years that follow, he becomes entranced by one of the few things that reminds him of his mother: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the art underworld.

Composed with the skills of a master, The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America, and a drama of almost unbearable acuity and power. It is a story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the enormous power of art.

Chapter 1.
Boy with a Skull

i.

WHILE I WAS STILL in Amsterdam, I dreamed about my mother for the first time in years. I'd been shut up in my hotel for more than a week, afraid to telephone anybody or go out; and my heart scrambled and floundered at even the most innocent noises: elevator bell, rattle of the minibar cart, even church clocks tolling the hour, de Westertoren, Krijtberg, a dark edge to the clangor, an inwrought fairy-tale sense of doom. By day I sat on the foot of the bed straining to puzzle out the Dutch-language news on television (which was hopeless, since I knew not a word of Dutch) and when I gave up, I sat by the window staring out at the canal with my camel's-hair coat thrown over my clothes—for I'd left New York in a hurry and the things I'd brought weren't warm enough, even indoors.

Outside, all was activity and cheer. It was Christmas, lights twinkling on the canal bridges at night; red-cheeked dames en heren, scarves flying ...

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  • award image

    Pulitzer Prize for Letters, Drama and Music
    2014

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

[The book] could have used some heavy editing. Frankly I am not sure I would have continued on had The Goldfinch not been a Donna Tartt book, knowing she’d spring a sudden surprise on me toward the end. And boy, does she! A dramatic event happens about two-thirds of the way in that upends the very foundations that the story is built on. It upsets, not just Theo, but the reader too, because Tartt has a way of enveloping us completely in her beautifully imagined world. That this plot turn hinges on a slightly far-fetched coincidence, we shall choose to ignore. As I read through, I realized I had impossibly high expectations for the author. The one problem with being Donna Tartt is that you have to measure up to, well, Donna Tartt.   (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The Goldfinch is a pleasure to read; with more economy to the brushstrokes, it might have been great.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. A standout—and well worth the wait.

Booklist

Starred Review. Drenched in sensory detail, infused with Theo's churning thoughts and feelings, sparked by nimble dialogue, and propelled by escalating cosmic angst and thriller action, Tartt's trenchant, defiant, engrossing, and rocketing novel conducts a grand inquiry into the mystery and sorrow of survival, beauty and obsession, and the promise of art.

Reader Reviews

Kelli Robinson

Big Fat Book Worth Reading
Although I agree with many other readers that the ending is less than satisfying, I highly recommend this book for its adventure and characters. I'm not sure how much I "cared" about the main character, Theo, but I was more than curious to ...   Read More

Eileen Pierce

Dickens meets the 21st Century
Kudos for Donna Tartt and her complex characters and riveting plot. Yes, art in whatever form brings us as close to ourselves as we will ever get. It is where through understanding others we discover ourselves. This is a novel of ideas, a splendid, ...   Read More

Jane H.

THE GOLDFINCH
I wish your reviews went higher than 5 ….. I would give this book a 10. Although 800 pages in length, I was bereft when I had to finish the last few pages knowing my time with this story was over. This book had everything I love, superb writing (I ...   Read More

FictionZeal

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
As an adult, Theo Decker narrates the story from the perspective of his 13 year old self. While visiting New York’s Metropolitan Art Museum with his mother, a bomb explodes, leaving him to find his own way out through horrible conditions. For some ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Carel Fabritius and The Goldfinch

Carel FabritiusIn Donna Tartt's new book, the protagonist, Theo Decker, comes upon an original seventeenth century painting, "The Goldfinch". The painting is one of Carel Fabritius' (Fub-reet-zee-us) most famous works. Fabritius (1622-1654) was one of Rembrandt's pupils. He worked from the Dutch city of Delft and produced only a small body of work before his death in a gunpowder explosion that shook the city in 1654, killing hundreds. Although a student of Rembrandt, Fabritius branched away from his master in his use of cool color schemes and especially his use of perspective - a technique that would surface later in the work of Vermeer.

Samuel van Hoogstraten's Interior of a Dutch HouseFabritius was known to use special optical effects and slight distortions in his paintings. Dutch artists of the ...

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