Reviews for The Goldfinch: A Novel

by Donna Tartt

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Donna Tartt's latest novel clocks in at an unwieldy 784 pages. The story begins with an explosion at the Metropolitan Museum that kills narrator Theo Decker's beloved mother and results in his unlikely possession of a Dutch masterwork called The Goldfinch. Shootouts, gangsters, pillowcases, storage lockers, and the black market for art all play parts in the ensuing life of the painting in Theo's care. Tartt's flair for suspense, on display in The Secret History (2005), features the pulp of a typical bildungsroman-Theo's dissolution into teenage delinquency and climb back out, his passionate friendship with the very funny Boris, his obsession with Pippa (a girl he first encounters minutes before the explosion)-but the painting is the novel's secret heart. Theo's fate hinges on the painting, and both take on depth as it steers Theo's life. Some sentences are clunky ("suddenly" and "meanwhile" abound), metaphors are repetitive (Theo's mother is compared to birds three times in 10 pages), and plot points are overly coincidental (as if inspired by TV), but there's a bewitching urgency to the narration that's impossible to resist. Theo is magnetic, perhaps because of his well-meaning criminality. The Goldfinch is a pleasure to read; with more economy to the brushstrokes, it might have been great. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (Oct. 22) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A long-awaited, elegant meditation on love, memory and the haunting power of art. Tartt (The Little Friend, 2002, etc.) takes a long time, a decade or more, between novels. This one, her third, tells the story of a young man named Theodore Decker who is forced to grapple with the world alone after his mother--brilliant, beautiful and a delight to be around--is felled in what would seem to be an accident, if an explosion inside a museum can be accidental. The terrible wreckage of the building, a talismanic painting half buried in plaster and dust, "the stink of burned clothes, and an occasional soft something pressing in on me that I didn't want to think about"--young Theo will carry these things forever. Tartt's narrative is in essence an extended footnote to that horror, with his mother becoming ever more alive in memory even as the time recedes: not sainted, just alive, the kind of person Theo misses because he can't tell her goofy things (his father taking his mistress to a Bon Jovi concert in Las Vegas, for instance: "It seemed terrible that she would never know this hilarious fact") as much as for any other reason. The symbolic echoes Tartt employs are occasionally heavy-handed, and it's a little too neat that Theo discovers the work of the sublime Dutch master Carel Fabritius, killed in a powder blast, just before the fateful event that will carry his mother away. Yet it all works. "All the rest of it is lost--everything he ever did," his mother quietly laments of the little-known artist, and it is Theo's mission as he moves through life to see that nothing in his own goes missing. Bookending Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud Incredibly Close, this is an altogether lovely addition to what might be called the literature of disaster and redemption. The novel is slow to build but eloquent and assured, with memorable characters, not least a Russian cracker-barrel philosopher who delivers a reading of God that Mordecai Richler might applaud. A standout--and well worth the wait.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

This latest work from Tartt (Little Friend) is nothing like the small, exquisitely rendered painting of the title. Protagonist Theo Decker is just 13 years old when his mother is killed in an explosion at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, which the two had been visiting (but when?). Before the explosion, Theo makes eye contact with an appealing girl his age; afterward, he lifts the goldfinch painting (but why?) and is given a ring by the older man accompanying the girl (but why?). The ring leads him to Hobart and Blackwell, an antiques shop where he meets both generous proprietor Hobie and Pippa, the girl from the museum, who remains the elusive love of Theo's life. Meanwhile, Theo stays with the wealthy family of his sort-of friend Andy until his long-gone father reappears to plunder the mother's apartment (but who paid the rent all that time?) and take poor Theo to Las Vegas. There, free of parental guidance, Theo befriends Russian bad-boy Boris and goes off track, eventually returning to New York, floundering through school, and setting up business with Hobie, whom he more or less betrays (but why?). Verdict There might be an acute psychological portrait of grief and growth buried here, but there's so much unconsidered detail that subject and background seem switched, as in a badly done painting. We should feel for Theo in his anguish, but instead he leaves an acrid taste in the mouth. Tartt is beloved, and readers are going to go after this book (but why?). [See Prepub Alert, 4/1/13.]-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

*Starred Review* Cataclysmic loss and rupture with criminal intent visited upon the young have been Tartt's epic subjects as she creates one captivating and capacious novel a decade, from The Secret History (1992) to The Little Friend (2002) to this feverish saga. In the wake of his nefarious father's abandonment, Theo, a smart, 13-year-old Manhattanite, is extremely close to his vivacious mother until an act of terrorism catapults him into a dizzying world bereft of gravity, certainty, or love. Tartt writes from Theo's point of view with fierce exactitude and magnetic emotion as, stricken with grief and post-traumatic stress syndrome, he seeks sanctuary with a troubled Park Avenue family and, in Greenwich Village, with a kind and gifted restorer of antique furniture. Fate then delivers Theo to utterly alien Las Vegas, where he meets young outlaw Boris. As Theo becomes a complexly damaged adult, Tartt, in a boa constrictor-like plot, pulls him deeply into the shadow lands of art, lashed to seventeenth-century Dutch artist Carel Fabritius and his exquisite if sinister painting, The Goldfinch. Drenched in sensory detail, infused with Theo's churning thoughts and feelings, sparked by nimble dialogue, and propelled by escalating cosmic angst and thriller action, Tartt's trenchant, defiant, engrossing, and rocketing novel conducts a grand inquiry into the mystery and sorrow of survival, beauty and obsession, and the promise of art. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Word of best-selling Tartt's eagerly awaited third novel will travel fast and far via an author tour, interviews, and intense print, media, and online publicity.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist

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