A great book for a book club selection.
The Goldfinch is the story of Theo Becker. The book opens with 27-year-old Theo sick and self sequestered in a hotel room in Amsterdam. You sense his fear and confusion, but as the reader you do not yet know the story. Tart then takes you back to the beginning; Theo and his mother on the way to a school conference with Theo’s principal. Theo has been suspended from eighth grade, and as a single parent, Theo’s mom needs to take the day off work to tend to the school matter. An avid art lover she takes advantage of her work-free day to take Theo to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to view the Goldfinch– a small 1654 oil painting by Carel Fabritius. Mother and son are momentarily separated in the museum as Theo wanders out of the bookstore and his mother runs back for one more look at a painting. It was at that moment that a terrorist bomb explodes, making ruin of the museum and killing many people included Theo’s mother.13-year-old Theo confused and dazed is looking for his mother amidst the ruble, dust, and dead bodies. After consoling and holding an older man as he dies, Theo places the Goldfinch into a nylon shopping bag and walks out of the building, finding his way through dark rooms and hallways, hoping to find his mother waiting for him at home. The connection between the Goldfinch surviving an explosion and fire in 1654, and now being “rescued” from another explosion is not lost on the reader.
What ensues is Theo’s life – orphaned, living on the upper east side with the Barbours, being reclaimed by absent father and taken to Vegas, and then once again finding his way back to NYC. All the while Theo tends to the stolen painting. Holding onto the masterpiece scares him, but he cannot bring himself to let it go. While in the beginning I was sympathetic, I had a hard time liking Theo. I came to really despise his character, which made it hard for me to continue reading the book.Donna Tart is a gifted writer and the beginning of the novel flowed beautifully. The ensuing 700 plus pages at times just dragged on forever, painting in detail Theo’s life of drugs and lies. This is the story of an adolescent boy living a world in which I do not care to visit.
That being said, this was a wonderful book for our book club! Reading this book provided for a lively and thought provoking discussion. The Goldfinch contains many layers of plot, character motivation and growth, with characters zigzagging in and out of each others’ lives at different points. The characters are marvelously complex, and this lends itself to great discussion. The majority of the book club loved this book; I was in the minority with one other reader.
Yes, the painting becomes Theo’s only connection to his mother – hence the reason why he cannot let it go. But did Welty really tell him to take it? Or did Theo combine Welty handing him the ring with his own desires and delusions? How did Boris ever survive his teens? Boris, living a Pulp Fiction kind of life – had an awful lot of influential connections that did not seem feasible to me.
If you belong to a book club, I highly recommend this book. Not because I loved it, I’m not even sure that I really liked it, but because it does lend itself to a great discussion. And that is what a book club is all about. Great discussions!
Buy The Goldfinch Here