THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt
I gobbled this novel up. Stayed up too late reading the exploits of the entirely lovable narrator, Theo Decker. So what if the novel flags a bit at the end when it comes to its thrillerish conclusion? What leaps out for me is the rawness and helplessness of childhood, especially once Theo falls into the clutches of his profoundly despicable father and the entirely unlovable stepbimbo, Xandra. I loved Theo’s mixed up Russian pal, Boris, and the author’s vivid creation of New York types like Hobie, an eccentric artist of antique furniture, and Kitsy, Theo’s uppercrust fiancée, whose smooth neutrality sometimes unsettles Theo: “But those sparkling blue shallows – so enticing at first glance – had not yet graded off into depths, so that sometimes I got the disconcerting sensation of wading around in knee-high waters hoping to step into a drop-off, a place deep enough to swim”. Tartt absolutely nails Theo’s bouts of depression –“there I was again with ink poured in my eyes, guttering around in the dark” — his careless experimentation with drugs, his deep longing for his lost mother – and then there’s the binding plot device and central metaphor of this lovely stolen hidden creation, a priceless painting of a little bird. Why is nothing said about the odd object on which the creature stands? Why does Tartt just present us with this loveliness chained to some inexplicable clunky ugly THING? Like our souls to our mortal bodies, perhaps? Well, maybe. Could we think of the Goldfinch as an echo of Keats’ nightingale or Yeats’ mechanical bird or Hardy’s darkling thrush? Or all three?