The Goldfinch

“A great sorrow, and one that I am only beginning to understand; we don’t get to choose our own hearts. We can’t make ourselves want what’s good for us or what’s good for other people. We don’t get to choose the people we are…”

“It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of antique stores where he works. He is alienated and in love-and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

The Goldfinch combines vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher’s calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.” – Goodreads

It’s difficult for me to be able to form the words to accurately describe to you the feelings that I had while reading THE GOLDFINCH. I hadn’t read anything about the novel (I didn’t even watch the movie trailer), other than the synopsis, and I was solely interested in it as one of my friends talks about how much she loved the book. 

THE GOLDFINCH is a novel that is not meant to be read quickly. It is also not a book that one should anticipate being able to read multiple chapters in one sitting or experience a point at which the story truly takes off. This book is a slow build; it is a slow build until the very last page. While there are moments of “action”, those moments are few and far between. What I learned is that this book isn’t necessarily about the painting of The Goldfinch, it is about Theo Decker. 

It is about the life that Theo Decker was thrust into the moment that his mother died. Her loss catapulted him into a life that he was not prepared for and awakened a darkness in himself that he never knew existed. 

I’m not kidding when I say that, on some level, I feel like I know Theo Decker better than I know some of my friends. The entire book was living in Theo’s mind. There is not a lot of dialogue. As a reader, you have to prepare yourself to hunker down in Theo’s mind and experience life as he experiences it. The wonder, sadness, disgust, despair, hope, love and every other emotion that you can think of are all nestled in Theo’s mind and those are the pages of THE GOLDFINCH. 

The author, Donna Tartt, completely blew me away with her incredible depiction of Theo’s life. If I didn’t know it was a work of fiction, I would’ve sworn up and down that this was based on someone’s life. That the author really is Theo Decker; that the author did experience all of the events that unfolded in the 771 pages of this novel. 

It was such a raw storyline that when I finished the last page, I was left completely unsure as to how I felt. Did I like it? Did I dislike it? Should I read it again? How can I describe the emotions that I felt throughout this book? I gave it some time so I could process my feelings. Here I am writing this a few days after I finished reading it and I am still unsure. How could I like a book that depicted a child experiencing such insurmountable loss? But, I did.

THE GOLDFINCH is raw, poignant and powerful novel that I suggest everyone read. But, remember, it will not be a fast read and it should be something that is savored.

“… Because– it isn’t drilled into us constantly, from childhood on, an unquestioned platitude in the culture—? From William Blake to Lady Gaga, from Rousseau to Ruminator to Tosca to Mister Rogers, it’s curiously uniform message, accepted from high to low: when in doubt, what to do? How do we know what’s right for us? Every shrink, every career counselor, every Disney princess knowns the answer: “Be yourself.” Follow your heart.”

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