What is The Goldfinch?
There are a lot of novels out there, and for an average Joe who just wants to read a good book without having to scramble through different books prior to finding a good one, the sheer number may just be daunting. So of course, one question always comes to mind, Is this book worth it?
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is a coming-of-age story of a boy named Theodore Decker and his experiences as he grows up to a life exposed to art and culture (especially paintings!). This might seem a little intimidating to someone who has little to no knowledge about art, especially since this book does mention specific artists and paintings that most of us are not familiar with. Interestingly enough, this was also how I felt prior to reading the book, but this didn't even come up as a concern to me after finishing this 800-page book in a matter of days.
My experience with this book is something that I only felt in a few other books that I've read, so I hope that you stay as I convince you to read this novel by Donna Tartt. Since I know that you came here with no idea about what it is, I will try to make this one comprehensive without giving much of the plot.
What Can You Expect?
Coming-of-age novels are extremely good at one thing: evoking personal emotion. Stories that narrate the experiences and challenges of people are relatable and people see themselves as the actor that goes through that specific journey in the book. Good stories make you cry or laugh, or both, but great stories make you feel different emotions and take you to a different realm that is so different that you don't know how to process it. This is a different reading experience unique to every individual, and this experience makes a person go back to that book and say, "This book is special." In most cases, I say this to a lot of coming-of-age books, and this is because every experience is different, and more often than not, they are worth reading.
This is the case of The Goldfinch. It takes you to live the life of Theodore Decker, a teenager who at an early age had experienced a unique yet relatable journey to self-realization. His story captivates you to reflect on things that are important to life and people that give value to it -- no matter how long they've been with you. It also sidetracks to the story of the goldfinch, a mysterious bird drawn by the famous painter Carel Fabritius in 1654, and its significance and symbolism.
I don't really get technical when I read a book, and for me, the standard to good writing is just simple: If a book makes me engaged that I can finish it fast enough, it's probably well-written. Each writer has a different writing style that you can't really compare one from the other. It's like comparing apples and oranges.
With that being said, I believe that The Goldfinch is a novel with simple storytelling that everyone could be on board with it. Its narrative is straightforward, and points get from A to B without any diversion. Sure, there are technical terms and painting names that you have to search to fully visualize the narrative, but once you get it, it becomes a whole different experience. The presentation of the protagonist, Theo, is straightforward, and his thoughts are transparent and well-articulated in a first-person POV.
In fact, his thoughts are deep. Reading it makes you think like him, and the questions he asks makes you question it yourself. His experiences guide him to decide on his fate, and you, as a reader, also decide whether his decisions are similar to yours. The author, Donna Tartt, did a good job portraying different emotions that captivate each moment in Theo's life, and how these emotions are formed in the mind of a growing up teenager. All in all, Tartt was able to execute the characterization of her protagonist and the making of his life.
If you still have doubts, you may be convinced knowing that this book won both a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and a Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, both in 2014. After winning the awards, its sales steeply rose, and within that year, it had sold 1.5 million copies worldwide and was expecting another 150,000. Its sales also increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, as people considered it one of their "bucket-list" books. Overall, it can be said that this book is both a hit for both the critics and the readers.
Aside from that, this book was also adapted in 2015 on the big screen. The movie of the same name was headlined by the famous Ansel Elgort, who also starred as the lead in a box-selling movie adaptation of The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. If you're interested, check the trailer below.
If this is the sign that you are looking for, go ahead and read that book. After all, spending a little break time digesting good literature is always good for health. If you still don't think that this book is what you're looking for, then there are myriad of books out there waiting to be read. If you don't have time right now, putting it in your "bucket list" may be a good idea, or reading it as an audio file may even be better.
© 2020 Blue and Gray
Rose McCoy from West Virginia on July 10, 2020:
This was an awesome article! I’ll have to check this book out next time I take a library trip. Thanks for the recommendation! :)