The Goldfinch —By Donna Tartt

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Book Reviews

It is the story of Theodore Decker, a boy from New York. His life was full of obstacles since the very beginning. A good boy that had to shape himself into the different circumstances that were occurring in his life. He had a loving mother and this was the refreshing part of his beginnings. But this love had to mix with an alcoholic and indifferent father, who fortunately abandoned them when Theo was in his teenage years. However, life fell apart when his mother died during an explosion in the Metropolitan Museum, where they were looking for his mother’s favourite Dutch exposition that included the Goldfinch. Theo, injured but conscious, stole the painting from the museum, under the advice of a dying man who was also visiting the exposition with his niece.

After living a couple of years with his school friend family, his father found him and for not very honourable reasons took him to Las Vegas, where he met Boris, his best friend, who joined him in trying all kinds of drugs. Back in New York, Theo went to live with Hobie, a friend of the old man from the museum, whom he met through the ring that he gave to Theo at the museum, before he left with the painting. Hobie was an art restaurateur. Pippa, the niece of the old man who was also injured in the explosion, became his platonic love, attached to the memories of the explosion, that also connected him with his mother and the painting. She obsessed him. Life went on until Boris showed up again in NY to finish Theo’s life as he knew it —that was already slipping under the use of drugs, the Goldfinch and his internal struggles to be a good person, denying his weak character’s nature—. Boris arrived just in time to involve Theo in the ultimate trouble of his life.

The Goldfinch is the centre connecting the dots in Theo’s life. Theo’s mother was fond of art. She knew the Metropolitan Museum well and she knew the painting. She instructed Theo in the connection that Fabritius made with Rembrandt. Also the bird, a little creature, all fragile, with no special emotions, but with a vigilant expression. However, what fascinated Theo was the question on why Fabritius chose a bird in a cage to paint. It had nothing to do with his own style, with the style of art of the XV century either. It was not a person, not a portrait and yet it had all the meaning, to him, and to everyone who had ever seen it. In a way, this painting saved Theo, in another, it drowned him down.

Theo is an antihero. An addict. A liar. He steps into trouble because of his moldable character, despite an exceptional intelligence and an excessive capacity to understand others intentions and thinking. It was because he did not care about anything more that his own memories, or those who were still connected to his past, like the painting, like Pippa. Boris, his friend, guided him from one deep whole into the other like a feather, and he did it well himself in getting into his own problems without any help. I felt like closing the book several times, only to open it again immediately to find out if Theo could sort out the problem. I liked the story, I like the several depictions and descriptions of art and the complicated human relationships. This book is rich in psychology, in philosophy, and in a couple of other areas in which one could find an organised and important thinking.

It is a long story, of 1.144 pages. I haven’t read such a long book since the times of Shantaram, of Gregory David Roberts. The author could have cut some of the scenes where she unnecessarily extended. However, it is a very good novel and a great entertainment for this summer holidays.


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