I recently finished reading Donna Tart’s The Goldfinch. The book follows the life of Theo Decker as he reflects on the event that changed the course of his life and the fallout from the choice that was made immediately afterwards. While reading this book, I learned a new word, bildungsroman, which is a coming of age story that follows the protagonist from childhood to adulthood. I only learned this because I got a little impatient while reading and wanted to see what happened at the end. This is probably one of my worst habits and I really can’t help it. I even did this while reading the last Harry Potter book. I’m a monster, I know.
Anyhow, back to The Goldfinch! The story was a little slow moving and meandering and the longest book I’ve read in a while at 771 pages but I really enjoyed it! I also liked it a lot better than the last Donna Tart book I read, The Secret History, which wasn’t bad but it was just weird and a little a creepy. A fact that was further bolstered by one of my best friends having gone to Bennington College, the school that Hampden College seems to be based on. Alright, alright, back to The Goldfinch for reals. The story opens with Theo at what is the end of story, looking back at the linchpin that leads to that moment. The even that sets everything in motion is a terrorist attack the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, shortly after the 9/11. Theo’s mother is killed in the attack and he walks away with a rare surviving painting by Fabritius, a student of Rembrandt. The painting is the titular goldfinch and throughout the story serves as a token that links Theo to the memory of his mother.
After the accident Theo is taken in by the wealthy family of one his friends until his estranged father shows up and whisks him away to Vegas. While in Vegas he is befriended by Boris, another motherless boy. Together they scrap together a hardscrabble existence fueled by parental neglect, drugs, and all the weirdness that comes with adolescence. I don’t want to give much more way but at its, heart The Goldfinch is a story of friendship and what it means to be good and what role being good plays in one’s destiny. The last few pages were favorite and worth the slow start. Oddly enough, I ended up watching Tulip Fever which is set in the time that Fabritius created the painting and it was a nice juxtaposition for the contrast that made the The Goldfinch so special. The painting is atypical of the paintings coming from the Dutch Masters during that time. It is simple and bright whereas Rembrandt and Vermeer’s painting were dark and moody.
This book as also renewed my interested in finishing Walden. It is assigned reading for the boys while they’re in high school but that is a post for another time.