I was really excited to read this book. Many of my fellow Goodreads reviewers were raving about it, and the premise of a boy who sneaks the sole surviving painting by a Dutch master into his backpack was intriguing.
I was told that it would be a page turner, and I was warned that it would be dark. But you know, there’s dark and there’s seedy. I can understand why many people loved this book. It’s a great story and it keeps you riveted. But quite frankly, seedy makes me uncomfortable. If someone had used the keywords “drugs” “underworld” “gambling”
“child neglect”, I might have thought twice about rushing to read The Goldfinch. When I was in high school I read a book about how teenaged runaways are kidnapped and sold into prostitution. Now that I know about it, I really don’t want to read any more on this topic. It’s not just dark, it’s seedy.
The main character is a boy whose whole life is turned upside down when his mother is killed. How sad. I’m a mom and I naturally feel sympathetic. But as the story progresses, the boy, whose is placed in terrible circumstances, eventually makes a series of bad choices. At first you think – it’s no wonder, he’s placed in a horrible environment, and this kind of thing happens. But then, he’s given a tremendous opportunity. I even wept at this part of the book, feeling relief and happiness that his luck had finally changed. Only Theo keeps on making bad choices. And that messes with you, the reader, because now you can’t continue to like him. I mean, how many chances are you going to give him?
The book doesn’t end particularly happily, but Theo does manage to extricate himself from one of his biggest dilemmas. Author Donna Tartt, manages to present a philosophical (and almost spiritual) view about how terrible events are sometimes necessary on the path to something good. I’m not sure I appreciated that sentiment (and I’m sure if Theo were a real person he wouldn’t have appreciated it either). Somewhat better are Hobie’s comments about how we are all connected by art and it’s impact on individuals are the reason why art should be made accessible to everyone.
On a positive note, I did enjoy Tartt’s research into the world of art, furniture restoration, gambling and that seedy underworld. I found that all very interesting.
Despite it’s seediness, I won’t deny it was a very good book, with great writing and a gripping story line. But alas, it’s January and I haven’t seen much of the sun lately (not to mention any warmth whatsoever in this northern climate) so my next book really needs to be one that will lift my spirits.
4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2013