When Theo Decker was thirteen he lost his beloved mother in a terrorist attack at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. His dad left them when Theo was little but he was lucky enough to be taken in by a wealthy friend’s family. While he was trying to locate his mother in the rubble, a dying man gave him the address to his local antiques shop and a signet ring. The elderly man also entrusted Theo with a package containing The Goldfinch by the Dutch painter Carel Fabritius. Eventually the shop becomes Theo’s spiritual home and the painting, the one thing that reminds him of his mother more than anything else, draws him into the criminal underworld of art theft and drugs.
There’s been a very long wait since Tartt’s last novel The Little Friend, which I still can’t stop thinking about over a decade after reading it, but it was well worth it. Tartt is a wonderful writer and it’s difficult not to be impressed by her willingness to confront suffering head on without flinching for even a split second. The book is told in retrospect by Theo and the opening of The Goldfinch grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go. Theo’s grief feels very real and his sense of alienation is completely relatable. This book is so much more than just a rites of passage novel and please don’t let its almost 800 pages discourage you. This is likely to be the most amazing book you’ve read in a while. The Goldfinch is an absolutely stunning novel about grief and loss, art and survival, but most of all it’s about the only things that truly matter in the end; love and friendship.