The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt, is one of the best books I have ever read. I immediately liked young Theo, the main character, who lives with his mother, who is taking him to the MOMA to kill time before an important meeting at his school to discuss his recent suspension on unfair grounds. He loves the museum and the art, but that day his attention is caught by a young girl about his own age, with a man Theo supposes is her grandfather. Unbelievably, his mother leaves him momentarily to run to the gift shop while he continues to look at the art, and at that moment a bomb goes off, killing several people and gravely wounding others. The girl’s grandfather is one of those who die on the scene, but before he dies, he and Theo have an exchange which will determine the course of the rest of Theo’s life. Chaos then ensues and he does not know whether his mother is dead or alive. He pesters the rescue personnel and they cannot give him any information. Eventually, he walks home, and it is a few days before he is told his mother has been confirmed dead. This begins his life of being shuffled to different caretakers. Without giving away the plot twists, Theo always manages to land on his feet despite suffering from depression stemming from his mother’s untimely death and also that of some close friends.
Donna Tartt is a masterful storyteller, making the unbelievable events of The Goldfinch believable. You honestly cannot guess the ending from the beginning, and it’s an entertaining tale, suitable for a long snowed-in weekend curled up on the sofa. I also found it interesting to learn about how various pieces of antique furniture can be faked and how valuable artworks can be used as collateral in drug deals, something I had never realized was being done. I would rate this book a 5, and there are some scenes regarding disturbing topics but they are not graphically portrayed. I especially enjoy Theo’s reflections on life and art and the human condition.