Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch is a heavy volume, almost at heavy as The Luminaries. And yes, it’s another long read, over 750 pages.

When I finished reading The Goldfinch, I realized I’d been reading about terrorism, drugs, depression, gambling, Russian mafia, violence and crime. If you’d told me that before I started, I probably wouldn't have picked the book up, but I’m so glad I did. What an amazing story! For me it was another total immersion experience where I surfaced only to make meals and sleep. I wouldn't have wanted to miss it.

Theo, a 13-year old boy, visiting an NYC art museum with his mom suddenly finds himself in the midst of a horrible bombing – dead bodies everywhere and his mom nowhere to be seen. By happenstance he is able to escape from the ruins of the building with a signet ring given to him by a dying man and a small but very valuable painting.

The Goldfinch, a well-known oil painting by 17th century artist, Carol Fabritius had already survived a 1654 explosion that killed the 32-year old artist in his own studio in the Dutch city of Delft. This painting of a tiny goldfinch chained to its perch was especially loved and extolled by Theo’s mother shortly before the devastating explosion that killed her and Theo has the sense that he is the painting’s rescuer.

This day of dust and destruction sets Theo off into a life unexpected, one in which he is burdened with post traumatic stress disorder, unacknowledged and untreated. The Goldfinch becomes a touchstone for Theo, connecting him to his old life and his mom, but eventually the painting turns into a liability – how to keep a valuable piece of art safe, how to return it to the museum without being charged with theft…

Twists and turns, engaging characters, symbolism related to the painting - all make this book a reading adventure. I highly recommend it, but beware the length of the novel and read it when only you have plenty of time, because, trust me, you won't want to tear yourself away.

Here is a list of awards for The Goldfinch and a video interview of the author: