With the recent release of the film this month I thought it would be a good time to reread the book. I first read this book when it came out in 2013, and I was only 16 then. I loved it, and it was one of those books that I could not put down until I finished it. And then I read her other two books, The Little Friend and The Secret History. To me the books only got better and better. But I wonder if it altered my opinion of the books as I had read her most popular one last, with her least popular one first.
Having finished the book I was curious what other people had thought of it. I had never really heard of leaving reviews on Goodreads or Amazon back in 2013. I read what I picked up in Waterstones, and then if it was really amazing I gave my mum a verbal review of what I thought of it. There is however, 53,113 reviews for The Goldfinch currently on Goodreads. Most of the people who left reviews only left them to say why they did not like the book, and the ones that loved the book left only a 5 star rating without a comment. But now here’s my review.
I did not love it this time around. But I also did not hate it as much as a lot of people did. There were times that the sentences were overly long and convoluted, and there were so many occasions when I was tempted to skip sentences altogether. The plot, though not revolutionary, was interesting. Theo’s guilt over never having admitted to taking the painting after the bombing shapes his entire life. He develops an addiction to prescription medication, and when faced with the knowledge that the original painting had been stolen years earlier from him by his supposed friend, he confronts the idea of suicide. But then the redemption of the character comes at the end when he uses his reward money to buy back the fake antiques that were sold because of his lie. Throughout the book it was easy for me to feel sympathy for Theo; his mother’s death was brutal, and his father would not be winning any Father of the Year awards. He certainly did not appear to have the easiest life. It can be understood then why he would steal the painting, his last connection to his mother. But does that excuse keeping the painting hidden for years? For me, it almost did. Had Theo not experienced any guilt for his actions then I would feel differently. But his case was the perfect example of how it is not always the easiest to do the right thing. Sometimes doing the right thing is the hardest thing in the world. Also Tartt to me conveyed that there is a reason behind everyone’s actions, and we should be mindful of how people’s past plays into their future.
So, would I recommend this book? Yes, but mostly to teenagers looking to expand their horizons away from Young Adult fiction. Tartt is said to be inspired by the likes of Dickens, and this book might be a good warm up for someone not quite ready to read something like the The Tale of Two Cities or The Great Expectations.
Finally, one of his mother’s last lines to Theo stuck with me. It reads ‘anything we manage to save from history is a miracle’. I find this interesting because in the modern day we are moving away from having physical objects to become history, to just having everything online somewhere. I think that this generation spends more time building online profiles than real life memories. So in a 100 years time what will be found to remember us by when everything is password protected on iCloud somewhere? Just a thought.
Until next time,