When I read Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History” over a decade ago, it stuck with me for quite some time. I think “The Goldfinch” is going to haunt me even longer.
I don’t know how she does it, but Tartt’s writing style is, for me at least, the literary version of an earworm that has no burn factor. I could not stop thinking about this book every time I put it down. I kept bringing it up with people at work. My dreams were screwed up. My daily routine was a mess.
I don’t want to go into the details of the book itself, honestly, not because spoilers would ruin it, but because there’s almost no way to come up with a summary in any graceful way that does it justice. That said, the final pages (I swear, this isn’t a spoiler, except in the vaguest possible way) ramble beautifully across a philosophical examination of the human relationship with art and beauty. So in that spirit, with the foundation that this novel qualifies as “art and beauty”… this is about a young man in the deepest throes of arrested development. He is paralyzed, utterly stuck in time, avoiding all personal agency. His relationship with Fabritius’ painting, “The Goldfinch,” the heart of the book, is a completely perfect, fully realized metaphor. And it thoroughly broke my heart, every step of the way.
There isn’t a word out of place in “The Goldfinch.” It’s a long, challenging, at times brutal read, and worth every ounce of heartache.