American Pulitzer Prize-winning literary critic, Michiko Kakutani, describes The Goldfinch as “a glorious novel that pulls together all Ms. Tartt’s remarkable storytelling talents into a rapturous, symphonic whole.” In Donna Tartt’s novel, a terrorist bomb explodes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, an event that changes 13-year-old Theo Decker’s life profoundly. Theo’s mother is killed in the attack, and, in the midst of the chaos, an old man gives the disoriented Theo a small painting – a 1684 masterpiece by Carel Fabritius. This piece, titled “The Goldfinch,” becomes Theo’s main connection to his mother, which Tartt explores through his pain of loss and forced maturity. As Theo grows up, so does his passion for the art world.
Tartt’s ear for words and extraordinary tale paint a vivid picture for her readers. Halfway through the 771-page novel, I wondered about her stylistic technique to grasp my short attention span for such a long story. Apparently, she spent 11 years perfecting this novel, which shows amazing dedication. But specifically, I realized that it’s Tartt’s gift for storytelling that engages her readers, as she communicates each chapter with fluidity. The writer imbues her best-seller with rich descriptions, like when Theo navigates Child Protective Services, lives with Park Avenue elegance, and gets into trouble with his sketchy but hilarious friend Boris. Throughout the novel, Tartt fills her tale with beautiful language, fresh prose, and comedy regardless of Theo’s social conditions. The Goldfinch deserves classification as a Dickensian novel.
While Theo’s history unfolds as a series of unfortunate events, Tartt’s work becomes a fascinating page-turner. Through Theo’s recountings of his personal experiences, we learn of his alcoholic and abusive father, who does not fulfill his role as a parent. The lack of stable family in Theo’s life causes him to internally struggle, which made me feel like a bottomless pit that yearns for comfort and closure. While reading any literary work, it’s important to acknowledge the author’s talents. Tartt confirms her strength as a writer through her ability to evoke sympathy in readers.
Overall, The Goldfinch successfully draws readers into its story through the author’s mastery of storytelling. Combining the value of art with the personal struggles of a young man, this book teaches readers a number of crucial truths
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.