Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Goldfinch

by Donna Tartt
771 pgs

Theo Decker is a teenage boy who lives in Manhattan with his mother. His father was an alcoholic who walked out on the two of them over a year ago. Now, his mother is his whole world. One afternoon the course of Theo's life is drastically and forever changed, when he and his mother visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. There's an exhibit of Dutch masterpieces there that his mother wants to see. While in the room containing his mother's favorite piece: The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius, a terrorist bomb goes off, killing Theo's mother and dozens more.

In the immediate aftermath and confusion of the explosion, an elderly man, whom Theo had met earlier in the museum, along with a beautiful young red-headed girl with him named Pippa, gives Theo his ring along with a strange message. Theo leaves the museum in a state of shock and confusion, carrying the ring and one more valuable item--The Goldfinch.

Weeks later, Theo, now living with his friend's family, decides to follow the strange message the old man at the museum gave him. He takes the ring with him and ends up arriving at the residence of Hobie, an old antique furniture restorer and dealer, the partner of the old man from the museum. It's there that Theo learns that Pippa survived the explosion but is still recuperating from her injuries. Hobie takes Theo under his wing and gives him a job working in his antique shop. As time goes on, Theo's relationship with Hobie grows, along with his love for Pippa, but he never tells either of them his secret, that he's in possession of a priceless piece of art, one that means so much to him because of its connection to his mother.

I had high expectations when I began reading this book. It was the Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction in 2014, was a critical favorite, and I think was on everybody's "best of" list for the year. Initially, I thought I was going to really enjoy it too. The first 200 pages are fantastic, after all. But as the story progressed, and Theo grows older, I found myself caring less and less about him as a character. By the end, I felt the same way about him and the book, as I did Holden Caulfield and The Catcher in the Rye. I recognized it as a very well written book and I felt like I should have really liked it, but didn't. And for some reason I felt guilty about it, like maybe the problem was with me.

★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

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