I was drawn to The Goldfinch because I had seen the painting once, in real life, on loan to the de Young Museum in San Francisco; an exhibit of the works of the Dutch Masters. It was painted by Carel Fabritius, a Delft master painter who was a pupil of Rembrandt and a teacher of Vermeer (Girl with a Pearl Earring). He died tragically in the Delft gunpowder magazine explosion in 1654 at only 32 years of age. Only about a dozen of his paintings survive. The Goldfinch is exquisite; photographs really don’t do it justice. It immediately became one of my all-time favorite paintings.
So when I saw The Goldfinch novel, by Donna Tartt, on the library website, I checked it out without knowing what it was about.
Shortly after I started it, I went for a walk with a couple of friends; books are a topic that often comes up. After I said what I was reading, one friend told me that her book club had tried reading The Goldfinch and had all quit, frustrated and disappointed. They couldn’t get into it.
I kept going, and found myself drawn into the story of a young teenage boy, whose mother takes him to see the exhibits at the Met in New York City, and The Goldfinch is among those paintings. What follows is an intriguing coming of age tale of art theft, drug addiction, grief, finding family, international crime and the Russian mafia. The novel follows a circuitous route of the life of Theodore Decker as he learns to navigate in the world. In an often bizarre twist of fate, the painting is his anchor.
You will likely either love it or hate it; I think this is a book where there is no in between. I am in the former camp. The novel held my interest, despite its length, and the ending has one of the best summations on life that I have read. Enjoy.