The Goldfinch

Donna Tartt, Author
Donna Tartt. Little, Brown, $30 (784p) ISBN 978-0-316-05543-7
Reviewed on: 07/29/2013
Release date: 10/22/2013
Paperback - 784 pages - 978-1-4087-0495-0
Hardcover - 864 pages - 978-0-349-13963-0
Hardcover - 25 pages - 978-0-85735-861-5
Hardcover - 1248 pages - 978-0-316-23987-5
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Paperback - 784 pages - 978-0-316-05544-4
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MP3 CD - 3 pages - 978-1-4789-8048-3
Ebook - 784 pages - 978-1-4055-2951-8
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Prebound-Sewn - 784 pages - 978-0-606-35314-4
Hardcover - 771 pages - 978-1-4087-0494-3
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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. With the same flair for suspense that made The Secret History (1992) such a masterpiece, The Goldfinch 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)
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