Aged thirteen, Theo Decker, son of a devoted mother and an absent father, miraculously survives a catastrophe that otherwise tears his life apart. Alone and rudderless in New York, he is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend.
Theo is tormented by longing for his mother and down the years he clings to the thing that most reminds him of her: a small, captivating painting that ultimately draws him into the criminal underworld.
This Pulitzer Prize winner is a big read, (700+ pages) and not everyone had managed to finish by the time we met this month, but for a few exceptions The Goldfinch was considered a worthy and, some would say, brilliant read.
Theo’s life never seemed to get on to a positive path, sending the novel into a downward spiral of self-destruction, obsession and in the end, uncertain conclusion. So why would we as readers enjoy this? Most of us put it down to good writing and a capacity to draw you into an exclusive, fictitious world. One which can be hard to shake yourself out of after a few hours of reading.
Tartt is a master at creating such a world, as proven in her first novel The Secret History.
Such literature is not for the faint of heart though. A few of us admitted to coming down with a small case of literary fatigue during the read, but generally the opinion was of … ‘it was worth it’, with the majority of us looking for the big picture message that must be contained within the many pages.
And although it was agreed the story was a little contrived, we put some effort into digging deeper and finding underlying themes. Art and beauty and the need for both scored high, also the struggle with guilt and loss, something Theo suffered throughout the book.
Character driven, this book chases many demons … sending readers swinging both ways with Theo and his cast, but along the journey something is built that stays with you once the last page is turned. And it is this fact alone that puts The Goldfinch into a category of worthwhile novels to read.