Monday, December 1, 2014

"The Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt

Boychik Lit Book Reviews - No. 14

Here’s my book review of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

This is a story about art theft and romantic obsession. Main character Theodore Decker is very much the boychik – a young man with more ambition than brains. So it’s a coming-of-age story, as well, full of his personal introspection and psychological turmoil.

Be warned – plot spoilers ahead.

Young Theo and his mother duck into a New York museum in the rain and are caught in a terrorist bomb blast. His mother is killed, but he is one of the few survivors. Another fatality is a cultured old man named Welty, who was at the museum with his pretty young ward Pippa. She’s close to Theo’s age and also survives, but with some debilitating injuries. She will become the unrequited love of his life. Before Welty expires next to Theo in the rubble, he gives him his signet ring and tells him to take this small painting – The Goldfinch – a Dutch Master picture of a bird chained to its perch. Theo takes on the mission to keep the painting safe.

That’s as much of the story as I’ll give away. There’s a lot more – this is a big book. The novel owes a lot to Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past and Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, and it mentions both. The underlying philosophical questions are broad and deep: Why is there evil in the world? What is the point of living? And what do we owe to history? to future generations?

A literary agent told me that author Donna Tartt refuses to be edited. Like I say, it’s a long book. It topped the bestseller lists for a while, and clearly many of her readers hoped it would be worth the time invested.

As for me, I applaud its ambitions, but I do think less would have been more.

For Boychik Lit, I’m Gerald Everett Jones. My new humorous novels are Mr. Ballpoint and Christmas Karma. And you can catch these podcast book reviews on

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