If you already like Donna Tartt you will already have this on your Christmas List, your eReader or in your pile. To my mind this is by far the best book she has written, her first A Secret History was a compulsive tale of student seediness and scandal and was hard to put down, and probably the Fifty Shades of Grey of those times, since its reputation spread by word of mouth like a herpes rash. Don’t get me wrong, I was right up there with the crowd.
Her second book was less successful all round, and I found it a really hard read, partly because its quality was disappointing. So it was a relief to hear that another book was coming out.
The Goldfinch more than lives up to the hype*. It is long! 771 pages of rapid fire excitement, tension, love, catastrophe and thought-provoking self-examination by the two main young characters: Theodore Decker and Boris.
A spur-of-the-moment art theft of a famous painting by Carel Fabritius, The Goldfinch, one of his only surviving paintings completed in the year he died in an explosion near his studio in 1654, leads to a less accidental theft of the same painting for use in a squalid drugs deal, collateral so to speak since there is no possibility of an outright sale. Since this occurs in reality it is interesting to see roughly how it works.
Meanwhile the original theft is causing untold anxiety to the thief, who is growing up with it on his conscience but can neither bear to part with it, nor see how he can possibly keep it having missed the opportunity to return the priceless piece of art. As a result of the first catastrophe he ends up under the care and tutelage of James Hobart, a furniture restorer of merit and reputation.
Anyone in the least interested in art or in furniture could gain a lot from this novel, Ms Tartt either already knows about the subjects or has done forensic research, all the descriptions and discussions, and there are many, are detailed, accurate and acutely interesting.
* how I loathe it when the BBC puts a newly published book into their book of the week slot!