Wednesday, October 1, 2014

THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt

Teenager Theo Decker loses his mother in a museum bombing in New York, and this event pretty much defines his life.  First, there’s the obvious loss of his mother, and his father is a deadbeat dad, whereabouts unknown.  Then there’s the matter of an old man, mortally injured in the explosion, who gives Theo a ring and some encouragement to make off with a 17th century painting—The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius.  Finally, Theo has a bad case of PTSD that causes him to find solace in drugs and alcohol, but actually he probably has a death wish.  At first, he can’t quite grasp the idea that he can’t continue living in the apartment that he shared with his mother.  For a time, he lives with his school chum Andy Barbour, whose family is dysfunctional but with mega financial resources to cushion the blow.  Next Theo finds himself in the Las Vegas outburbs where he becomes fast friends with Boris, who has also lost his mother.  Finally, he takes a bus back to New York, painting in tow, along with a small dog, hidden in a paper bag.  Theo’s next living situation is his best so far—with Hobie, furniture restorer and business partner of the old man who died in the museum.  I was not surprised to learn that Tartt is a great admirer of Dickens, because Theo is basically a hapless kid, surrounded by colorful but not-so-helpful influences, who finds his niche in the world by underhandedly selling Hobie’s rebuilt antiques as the real thing.  He gets Hobie out of debt, at the expense of potentially sullying his reputation.  When a sinister character starts threatening Theo with revealing all of his dirty deeds, including Theo’s theft of a certain lost work of art, Theo’s world starts to unravel.  Our next setting is Amsterdam, where things really get dicey.  Although most of the novel takes place in New York, sort of a safe haven for Theo, the seedy and contrasting backdrops of Amsterdam (dark and watery) and Nevada (sunny and desolate) make for perfect locales for a variety of criminal activities and reading pleasures.  Certainly the length of this book is a bit of a downside, but I never felt that reading it was a chore.  On the contrary, I had to find out if Theo could get his head on straight, despite Boris’s unexpected intrusions, luring Theo back to the dark side. 

1 comment:

spywife said...

Sorry I didn't like this book at all. I found it tedious and trite in it's attempt to be cohesive. Could not wait for it to end.