A lot has been said about The Goldfinch. I don’t expect I will break any new ground here but I spend a lot of time with this book so I’m writing a review.
If I were to compare the style of this story I would say it falls between Charles Dickens’ Bleak House and J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. Although I was picturing “Rizo” from Urban Cowboy as I’m reading the book, which is told in first person by Theo Decker as an older man, relaying his childhood trauma of being in the Metropolitan museum when it was blown up, living with an odd, rich family, and his subsequent disturbing life.
Like with any Charles Dickens book I was hooked by page 75. After my initial shock wore off that the Metropolitan Museum of Art was bombed (This is not much of a spoiler since this has been much talked about since the book came out.) I was intrigued by the boy’s plight. His anguish and reaction in this section of the novel was truly well-written. Bravo.
However, by page 413 I did begin to wonder why the bombing wasn’t made more out of in the book. Even though we are in the viewpoint of a character wrapped up in his own worries, I think there should be more of a deal made of the Met’s bombing in the news (in the book). By page 500 we do see some news about the painting, so that helped in grounding this to reality a little better. The painting, The Goldfinch, seems to have been forgotten for large portions of the book. It’s hard to care about it when it isn’t mentioned for fifty pages at a time. It became more central to the story line towards the end of the book.
The author is a talented writer. I loved the sharp descriptions of each of the characters and even some of the very minor characters. I did have a difficult time liking Theo, the main character. The author may have been going for realistic but we don’t necessarily love watching the depressing twists and repetitive turns of real life. At the end of the book Theo says that he wrote what he did because he was trying to figure things out through writing them down, but came to the conclusion that life is what it is. It wasn’t a satisfactory ending. Would I recommend it? There are too many other fine stories available to spend so much time on this one.