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Book Review: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is her third novel written in 2013 after a long gap of eleven years, in 2002 she published The Little Friend. The Goldfinch won her Pulitzer Prize of 2014 and some other honors as well.

It is a coming-of-an-age story where the author has shown the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood. The protagonist is a young (13 years) boy Theodore Decker, known as Theo. His life takes an unprecedented turn when he goes with his mother to visit an art museum in New York displaying Dutch masterpieces.

There bomb explosion takes place, his mother dies and many other people. In a nervous state he encounters a mysterious old man who gives him a message and a ring. Theo wakes up dazed and bereft, while staggering to save his life, in total chaos, misunderstands the old man’s message and then picks up the Dutch golden age picture called The Goldfinch, a rare work of Carel Fabritius. From there on Theo takes a different life and often broods about his past life, especially loathes his father who leaves them a year before the explosion. The character transformation that is shown in this book through Theo is remarkable. Theo himself doesn’t know that the two items that he has taken from the museum at the bomb site are going to change his life forever.

Tartt let us experience love and grief, in compelling voyeurism, as we stay with Theo and see him cry, see him hold back his tears, see him fight and see him feign normalcy. Like her other two works, Donna Tartt is an exemplary creator of the less-than-ordinary male protagonist - they are never the smartest guys in the room and they never quite land the girl, yet they are so extraordinarily humane, with a heart that makes more mistakes than the head.

Her style is so extravagant and gleaming, with the backdrop of austerity in circumstances and setting, that the blend turns out deeply immersive. This book is a must read.


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