I was enthralled by Donna Tartt's 'The Goldfinch'

Here’s to my first 20 in 20 art activity: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

I was enthralled by Donna Tartt's 'The Goldfinch'

Donna Tartt won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Goldfinch, and rightly so. I came across the book after my intrigue was sparked by the 2019 movie release. I decided to plough through the hefty tome before seeing the film (all book-before-movie readers, unite). No doubt a review about the movie itself will soon follow, so stay tuned! 

The Goldfinch weaves between past and present, establishing blistering tension in the first chapters when protagonist Theo is caught in a terrorist attack in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. From here the narrative stretches from Las Vegas to Amsterdam, childhood to adolescence, and then returns back to New York when Theo reaches adulthood. 

Tartt has an enviable writing style which etches each and every setting into the reader’s mind. There’s something simplistic and tempting about the way she approaches description which makes The Goldfinch approachable and accessible. Aside from Tartt’s melodic and at times heart-breaking description, the main reason this book snapped up and sustained my attention to the finish was the vulnerability and personality of the characters. 

We vault into the story by meeting Theo who is messy, mentally endangered and traumatised by his experiences as a young boy. Childhood best-friend and comrade Boris never failed to enliven a scene, with broken Russian and endearing crudeness. Father figure and antique shop owner Hobbie was painted to be so brash, gruff and cheerful you wanted to invite him over for tea and cake. Mrs Barbour emphatically embodied the up-town New York City scene from which Theo tries to escape - both physically, and through substance abuse - during adulthood. 

Between scrapes with authority, art history detail, character impuissance and childhood flashbacks, a narrative unfolds which binds you tightly with Theo and the host of people he encounters throughout his life. Join me in putting a hand together for Donna Tartt. What a way to begin the 20in20 challenge. 

To give you a taste of The Goldfinch, the 2019 movie trailer is below. 

Header Image Credit: Image via Warner Bros. Pictures YouTube Channel


Sienna James

Sienna James Voice Team

Formerly Assistant Editor, Sienna now studies History of Art at the University of Cambridge and loves to write about the intersection of politics, history and visual art. Sienna is author of the Creative Education and Instaviews series.

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