About Me

My photo
Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
My virtue is that I say what I think, my vice that what I think doesn't amount to much.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Goldfinch

Donna Tartt wrote The Secret History, her first and very successful novel, in 1992, followed by The Little Friend in 2002. The Goldfinch, published in 2013 is her third novel. It's big (800 pages) and dense and well worth the wait. It tells the story of Theo Decker whose loving and beloved mother is killed by a terrorist bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Thirteen year old Theo survives the attack and takes two things with him when he leaves the building. The first is a ring, the owner of which asks Theo to deliver it to Hobie, a Greenwich Village antique dealer. The second is The Goldfinch, painted by Dutch artist Carel Fabritius in 1652, an artwork much loved by Theo's mother. Thus begins a rollicking, Dickensian journey.
He is taken in by the family of a school friend and remains in their Park Avenue apartment until his father, an alcoholic con artist who abandoned Theo and his mother some time ago, shows up to claim his son and anything of value his ex-wife might have left behind. Dad and his cheap, gum-smacking, drug dealing girlfriend take Theo back to a bleak, mostly abandoned suburb of Las Vegas where they ignore him. Then Boris, a Russian immigrant whose own father is abusive and mostly absent, arrives on the scene. The two of them, left to their own devices, get into all kinds of adolescent misbehaviour, including drug and alcohol abuse.
When his father is killed in a car accident Theo, dad's girlfriend's dog under his arm, jumps on a bus and heads back to NYC and the antique dealer who had been kind to him. He becomes an antique dealer, swindles many customers, pines for Pippa, another survivor of the museum bombing, and falls for the sister of the schoolmate whose family had cared for him after his mother's death.
Throughout, Theo keeps a wrapped package that he believes holds The Goldfinch. Then Boris shows up and things really get crazy. I know, I know. It's over the top. Cliches and hackneyed language abound but I was engrossed throughout. I began reading the book but had to return it to the library (800 pages!) so I downloaded the Audible version and listened to it on the train from Niagara Falls to NYC and on the return trip and when I did housework. I enjoyed it. It dragged a bit at times but I did not wish it would just end already. Does it deserve all the hoopla? It appears that readers either love it or hate it. Should you read it? I'd advise you to begin it. If it grabs you, continue. If you're hoping it gets better, put it down, it's probably not for you.

No comments: