Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Goldfinch

Title: The Goldfinch
Author:  Donna Tartt
Publication Information:  Little, Brown, and Company. 2013. 784 pages.

Book Source:  I read this book based on a friend's recommendation.

Favorite Quote:  "None of us ever find enough kindness in the world, do we?"

The goldfinch is a small bird. The Goldfinch is a small painting created by
Carel Fabritius in 1654. The painting is of a small bird chained to its feed box. It is considered to be a masterpiece of tromp l'oeill illusionism. Viewed from a certain angle, the viewer may think that the bird is real. The painting is also one of only about 15 works created by the artist, who died very young. Shortly after painting this piece, he died in a explosion of a gunpowder store in the city of Delft in the Netherlands.

The painting is a key character in the story of Theo Decker. Theo is thirteen years old as the story begins. He is being raised by his mother; his father has recently abandoned them both. Theo and his mother are caught in an explosion, which leaves his mother dead and Theo traumatized. He walks away physically uninjured but altered forever. He also walks away in possession of this painting.

The book proceeds to tell of Theo life - taken in by friends, claimed by relatives, alone, finding and losing friends, living his life as an adult, and repeatedly turning to self-destructive behaviors as an escape.

The book definitely consists of distinct sections centered around different phases in Theo's life. He travels through his life, never finding solace to recover from the trauma of losing his mother. The Goldfinch travels with him, and takes on the role of Theo's anchor.

This book is almost 800 pages long, and one of the saddest, most depressing books I have ever read. If that will deter you as a reader, then this is definitely not the book for you.

That being said, I really liked the book. It has some of the qualities of a train wreck - terrible things happen to this young man; yet, as a reader, you cannot look away. Regardless of the bad choices he makes, I care about Theo and what happens to him. This makes the almost 800 pages fly by, waiting to see if at some point, he finds peace and joy in his life.

At one point, Theo remarks, "As much as I'd like to believe there's a truth beyond illusion, I've come to believe that there's no truth beyond illusion. Because between 'reality' on the one hand, and the point where the mind strikes reality, there's a middle zone, a rainbow edge where beauty comes into being, where two very different surfaces mingle and blur to provide what life does not:  and this is the space where all art exists, and all magic."

This book, in its reading, hits that middle zone.

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