My holiday read: The Goldfinch

My holiday season read this year is Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, which is also Amazon’s pick for the best book of the year. At the moment, I am about three quarters into it and it has been good enough to keep me flipping through the pages.

Centered around a small goldfinch painting by Carel Fabritius, disciple of one of the greatest Dutch painter Rembrandt, the story is as much an Oliver Twist tale as well as an Ocean Eleven art-heist drama. When young Theodore Decker lost his mother in a terrorist attack at the museum, he gained a piece of artwork that was handed to him by a dying stranger, bringing about a lifetime of obsession with the painting.

The rest of the narrative follows Theo during his bumpy growing-up years having never fully recovered from the incident as he rides through ups and downs to deftly explore themes of solace and grief. In between Theo’s lonesome struggle with his illness and gnawing drug addiction, the distance he puts between reality and his thoughts, punctuated by regular flashbacks of scenes with his dead mother, is perceptive and very real. Adopting Jack Kerouac’s babble flow, Theo’s mind becomes a surreal ground filled with a riot of spontaneous ideas and images running through it.

“Hordes of people on the street, lighted Christmas trees sparkling high on penthouse balconies and complacent Christmas music floating out of shops, and weaving in and out of crowds I had a strange feeling of being already dead, of moving in a vaster sidewalk grayness than the street or even the city could encompass, my could encompass, my soul disconnected from my body and drifting among other souls in a mist somewhere between past and present, Walk Don’t Walk, individual pedestrians floating up strangely isolated and lonely before my eyes, blank faces plugged into earbuds and staring straight ahead, lips moving silently, and the city noise dampened and deafened, under crushing, granite-colored skies that muffled the noise from the street, garbage and newsprint, concrete and drizzle, a dirty winter grayness weighing like stone.”

Although this is not the most jolly read amidst the festivities, the elegance of the prose and intricate descriptions of Manhattan compensate for the morbid and bleak tone that help me troop through the 700-odd page book. I simply cannot wait to find out the ending and till then, tschus!


17 thoughts on “My holiday read: The Goldfinch

  1. I have just finished reading The Goldfinch, and I must say it certainly isn’t Donna Tartt’s best. I think I like her first one better. This one is good enough to keep me reading until the end. Aside from that, I really like her fluid prose. I feel like it’s a bit Harry Potter-ish, though.

    1. Now that you mention it, it does remind me vaguely of the Harry Potter story line – orphaned boy who pines for his mother as he struggles to fit in with the normal kids. I have never read Tartt’s first book or any of her other books in this case, so I can’t make a fair judgement here, but The Goldfinch is pretty decent that is worth the read.

  2. I just downloaded this book and cannot wait to get into it! I had just recently finished Wally Lamb’s new book, We are Water and had mixed feelings.

    1. Yeah, The Goldfinch is certainly on the thicker side but the plot is pretty good because it doesn’t get boring and is very reflective. Worth it if you’re willing to press on

  3. Well.. it sounds interesting.. a little dark yes.. But I am an artist and I’ve even painted goldfinches. 700 pages ! It’s hard to believe your excerpt is just ONE sentence! I probably won’t read it.. I would get lost in the dark(ness).

    1. Yeah, there’s a lot of these one-sentence long babble flow that usually occurs when the protagonist gets stressed, depressed or when he’s drugged up. It’s almost a conscious reflection of what he perceives and processes when in a certain state. I would definitely say give this book a shot because it truly lived up to the hype.

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