Sometime early in the new year, my sister-in-law, Merle, had recommended a great read to me. It was no less than Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. Here’s an excerpt of Merle’s email to me:
I just finished reading The Goldfinch. It is a large and dense book but it completely ensnared me. The writing was unbelievable — so vivid and compelling. No wonder the book is considered Dickensian, one of the best in decades. I assure you that the characters will be etched in your mind and heart for a long time — Theo, Boris, Hobie, Pippa… And I have not read anything that describes what art is as Tartt has “…there’s no truth beyond illusion. Because, between ‘reality’ on the one hand, and the point where the mind strikes reality, there’s a middle zone, a rainbow edge where beauty comes into being, where two very different surfaces mingle and blur to provide what life does not: and this is the space where all art exists, and all magic.”
Of course, I was intrigued. I promptly downloaded the book to my Kindle and reserved precious reading time to savor the pages. Well, it was indeed a swell ride, to say the least. There are many things to like about this book. It has so many layers. It’s not a post-apocalyptic dystopian society novel. I think that’s been played out in the media ad nauseam. So, if you’re looking for one of those, you will be disappointed. This story may be reminiscent of Great Expectations, with critics alluding to Ms. Tartt’s work as “New Dickensian.” But it is set in the present day, with terrorist plots, bombs, the mob, and lots of travel to far away places. It opens on Christmas Day, a deliberate irony from the author. But then, the first few pages of the book knock you off your chair with tragedy after calamity! Is it a coming of age story? Is it part historical fiction, more tangential than others, with just enough dips and allusions to similar events in our current lebenswelt?
My hubby would say that it really is a love story, as most stories ultimately are to him! Well, not really. Not this time, Hon. There is a side love interest but even that just lends a bittersweet melody in the background.
Could one call it ultimately a triumph against odds, of good versus evil, of family dysfunction, of exposing the underbelly of our societal decay? Or better yet, of love, loss, and redemption? Yes. Yes. Yes, to all of the above. That is the beauty of Ms. Tartt’s layered stories and multi-dimensional characters.
Last week, Ms. Tartt received a Pulitzer nod for her recent masterpiece. What a fitting award for excellent writing. I too was riveted to the story, all the way to the last paragraph! And even if it has been almost three months since I read the book, indeed, as Merle said, the characters continue to live in my head.
P.S. This is the second Pulitzer award for a story about an orphan. See Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son, last year’s winner and another can’t put down book.