Beth Leiss


The Goldfinch

By Donna Tartt

Little, Brown and Company

Seemed like a harmless little work of fiction, right? A beautiful little bird peaking through the appearance of ripped paper made this book look like an easy and quick read. When reading books off of an e-reader it's hard to judge the amount of time one will put into a book. People that know me know that I read very little about the subject of the book and won't go to a movie that gives too much of the story away. "The Goldfinch" is much more than a simple feel good read. That being said, I'm still very happy I chose this book to review.

Like the movie and book, "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," by Jonathan Safran Foer, The Goldfinch is centered around a child that loses a parent to an act of terrorism. That's where the similarity ends. Preteen Theo, loses his mother to a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, while visiting a simple painting of a bird that she adored. Prior to the explosion, Theo notices an intriguing girl and her elderly guide in the gallery. Letting his mother wander off to explore another room, Theo remains with these people to secretly watch the girl. After the explosion, Theo's communication with the dying elderly man leads him to an act that will follow him into his adulthood.

Theo seems to push aside his grief while navigating his dealings with social services and the wealthy Manhattan family that takes him in. A business card from the injured museum man leads Theo to an antique furniture shop, where many expensive items are sold or repaired. Theo finds solace with the kind and gentle business partner of the deceased old man.

When his estranged alcoholic father shows up with a new girlfriend, Theo and his secret are moved to an abandoned neighborhood, full of newly built and empty homes. Here, Theo meets his new friend and fellow misfit, Boris. Both suffering from lack of family structure and care, the boys dive in to heavy alcohol and drug use. Once again situations change and an orphaned Theo is back in New York City with out anything but his beloved secret. Seeking assistance, he finds himself on the doorstep of the antique furniture dealers shop. Taken in by the kind old man, he has the opportunity to get close to the beautiful girl that he saw in the museum before the blast. Wishing this story would tidy up and have a happy ending, I was sadly disappointed. We jump to a young adult Theo, still riddled with drug use and possible post-traumatic stress disorder. He appears to be living a lie in many aspects of his life and still dealing with the center of his existence, the secret he carried from the wreckage of the attack.

It's doubtful that I totally understood the underlying message of this work of fiction, but I enjoyed trying and still find myself thinking back on some of the situations to see if I needed to get more out of it. Author Donna Tartt has a wonderful voice in this well-written. As a side note, you should know that "The Goldfinch" is an actual classic painting by Carel Fabritius, popular because of it's simple but perfect creation through appealingly simple brush strokes that looks alive when stepping back.

Beth Leiss was raised in Bismarck and has always enjoyed reading all kinds of books. Her dream is to pass her love of reading on to her girls as her mother passed it on to her.