12 January 2015

book review: the goldfinch

the goldfinch by donna tartt

so, the goldfinch is perhaps one of the most lofty books i have ever read.  it clocked in at a whopping 718 pages on my ipad.  i'm glad i had about four uninterrupted days over the christmas holidays to make a  dent in the book and was able to finish it before it was due.  since then, it's remained consistently on my mind but i haven't been able to string together a few paragraphs about why it impacted me so much.  maybe that is the mark of an amazingly gifted author or a truly marvelous book - it leaves you with a feeling you didn't even know you needed to experience?  

theo is barely a teenager, in trouble at school and on his way there with his mom to be served his punishment.  they are early, so they pop in a local museum in new york city to poke around.  a typical teen, theo can only think about his stomach and how hungry is, but he dutifully follows his mom around the art exhibits.  and then the unthinkable happens - a bomb rips through the museum.  theo and his mom are separated, but in a delirious state he runs into another guest, an older man - barely conscious - who prompts him to steal a piece of art ("the goldfinch") laying amongst the rubble, offers him up his ring, and tells him to go to an obscure address to find someone who will know what to do.

theo is estranged from his dad, has no family, and is taken in by social services when his mom never shows up at their apartment after the accident.  he is taken in by a classmate's family who live in a more affluent part of the city where he struggles to fit in and continue on with his life without his mom.  the book follows theo as he jumps from location to location, detailing the events that make up his days as a teenager to a young adult, the trouble he gets in, the struggles he endures, the friends he makes and loses, with the only constant denominator in his life being the small piece of artwork he took from the crumbling museum on that fateful day that is like a weighted anchor he drags around with him, reminding him of that terrible day and keeping him on alert for the day that it, too, will be taken from him.

so much happened in this book that it's so difficult to give a summary of the plot without giving too much away, but if you like triumphant (but slightly screwed up) characters, if you like intense and shifting plot-lines, if you're at all interested in the world of art and antiques, i'd so recommend this book.  i imagine it being one that i go back to every year or so to reread, as i imagine reading it a second time around will reveal intricacies to the plot and characters that i missed the first time around.

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