If you’re looking for the next novel that will change your life, I have your answer: “The Goldfinch,” by Donna Tartt. This Pulitzer Prize-winning book truly is a masterpiece.
The novel follows the life of Theo Decker, who starts out as a normal boy growing up in New York City. After his mother is killed in a horrific bombing incident, Theo’s life is thrown into complete upheaval as Social Services tries to work out where to place the adolescent, whose father left the family a few years prior.
The story really begins here, with his struggle as a system kid, to his newfound dad’s place in L.A., to his return to the city, irrevocably changed and jaded. Throughout all this, Theo is hiding the incredibly famous painting, The Goldfinch, which ended up in his possession after the tragedy that took his mother’s life and becomes the source of his obsession for the remainder of his life.
“Goldfinch” tackles drug abuse, alcoholism and the loneliness and isolation of the human soul while at the same time showing true friendship in its most sincere form and the things that bond one human being to another. In essence, the piece is a commentary on society, the way circumstances shape people more than we sometimes realize, and the general mindset of the masses versus the individual.
I appreciated the way Tartt showed sexuality as something open and fluid, with nothing set in stone. Her writing, direct and thought provoking, flows easily without getting confusing. It kept my attention with every page. There were never those sections that you just want to skip through to get to the good parts. You can tell her writing is 10 years worth of energy and effort — each word used is crucial and intriguing. She’s everything I hope to be in a writer one day.
This narrative goes deep into the human psyche. Tartt takes one person, Theo, or “Potter” as he is called by his lifelong Polish other half, Boris, and breaks him down into a million little pieces. I didn’t think I would be able to relate to the slightly deranged, emotionally damaged, struggling young man who was introduced in the first chapter as a flash forward hiding out in a hotel room in Amsterdam, but I was proven astonishingly wrong. The best part of the book for me was this depth of character — it shows the world through the eyes of someone who is too tired and beat up by it to not see through the bull. He is honest and authentic in a way that reveals what most would call a flawed person outwardly as one of the most believable and real characters in fiction today.
I never wanted to close the book, or to see Theo’s odyssey end, but when I finally did, I felt like I couldn’t go back. Do yourself a favor and read it.