I’m not sure about you, but big books scare me. There is something about picking up a 600+ page book that fills me with reluctance and horror. I tend to avoid them like the plague. I think my aversion to big books is linked to my “so many books, so little time syndrome.” After all, I could easily read 3 smaller books in the time it would take me to finish one enormous novel. Despite my hesitation to pick up big books, I’ve yet to read a 600+ page novel that has disappointed me! Some of my favourite books are amongst the biggest ones that I’ve read: Gone With the Wind, The Name of the Wind, 1Q84, Dune, and now The Goldfinch.
At 771 pages, The Goldfinch is bigger than some dictionaries, but far more satisfying! Absorbing and spellbinding, The Goldfinch is a beautifully written masterpiece that left me feeling breathless. I soon forgot how big and scary the book initially seemed, and instead found myself wishing that the story would never end!
The Goldfinch focuses on the character of Theo Decker, a young boy living in New York City who survives a horrifying bombing at an art museum that takes the life of his mother. Emerging from the rubble alone, Theo manages to escape from the museum with a painting of a strange and mesmerizing little goldfinch. Without his mother to care for him, Theo is bounced back and forth from house to house, with the painting as his only source of solace. As he grows older, however, Theo finds himself in a sticky situation, and is dragged down into the dark shadows of the art underworld.
While the plot of The Goldfinch was intriguing, the aspect of the novel that impacted me the most was the characters. Tartt breathed life into each individual personality that she created. Her characters aren’t just composed of ink and paper, but blood, and bones, and heartbeats. Theo, the main narrator, especially leaves an impact. His words were so intimate and moving that I felt like I could reach out and touch him. Self-destructive and pessimistic, Theo was far from the perfect protagonist, and I loved him for it.
And then there is Boris. Charismatic, explosive, and erratic Boris. When people talk about loyalty, they have yet to meet this crazy Russian who will steal your heart. I distrusted Boris and his intentions at first, but his relationship with Theo was inspiring in its own twisted sort of way. I initially blamed Boris for some of Theo’s self-destructive behaviour, but the reality is that Theo was already on the path to self-destruction before Boris ever stepped into his life. Instead, Boris gives Theo one of things he needs most in the world, unfailing friendship.
In the end, it’s kind of ironic that a novel about a work of art turns out to be a work of art itself. The Goldfinch is beautiful and has left a lasting impression on myself. I’m certainly happy that I managed to put aside my fear of big books to give this one a try, and I look forward to reading Tartt’s other novels in the months ahead.