First Impressions – ‘The Goldfinch’ by Donna Tartt

Author: Donna Tartt
Cover artist: Carel Fabritius, The Goldfinch – 1654
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: literary fiction
Published: September 23, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Media type: Print
Pages: 864

Winner of the Pultizer prize for fiction, 2014

Winner of Amazon’s Best Book of the Year, 2013

Awarded the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, 2014

Selected as top, 10 best books of 2013 by the New York Times Book Reviews editors

Shortlisted for National Book Critics Circle Award 2013 and Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction

I’ve had this book for a few years now, given to me as a birthday gift. A lot of books that I’ve gotten as a birthday gift I never got around to reading until much later – I still haven’t read the Unabridged version of ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ by Victor Hugo, which I got as a birthday gift in ninth grade. But I saw the trailer for the movie adaptation of this book a couple years back, and told my friend I wanted this for my birthday. I haven’t seen the movie, and until recently, I hadn’t started the book, either.

The story (till where I’ve read) goes like this. Theo Decker, a 13 year old, lives in New York with his mother (father left them a year before the book starts). Due to circumstances, they find themselves in an art gallery one afternoon, which gets blown to bits due to a bomb catastrophe. Theo survives, and in his mentally confused state, picks up the last painting he and his mom were looking at before the blast, and after a futile search, goes back home, only to find out a few days later that his mother passed away in the blast. The family of a wealthy friend takes him in, and eventually, his father (and his father’s girlfriend) picks him up and whisks him away to Las Vegas, where he starts a new life.

The writing transports you into the mind of Theo, the protagonist and narrator of the story. The world is shown to you the way Theo sees it, feels about it, experiences it. You experience his love for his mother, the terror immediately after that he blast, his unbearable sorrow at having to live in a city where everything reminds him of his mother, and the hopelessness that he feels when he’s shifted from one home to the next. For as long as your eyes go over the text, you will find yourself living Theo’s life as he narrates it.

It doesn’t offer you much more than real life. Somehow, in writing, keeping it real is as difficult as, if not more than, living in a fantasy world. The sorrow feels real. The apathy he develops, after his mother’s death, towards life and the people around him feels real. It’s really easy to go over the top with such emotions, and people take the easy route – emphasise it a bit too much, or jump to the part where the character is done dealing with the the tougher parts of grief. But this book doesn’t let you off the hook so easily – you stand there with Theo and experience all of it.

It’s a slow burn, and in a positive way. There’s no smoothing over difficult situations, but at the same time, it isn’t an overload of information. The pace is slow, and the narrative moves steadily along, revealing Theo’s feelings subtly and without using too many words.

The back cover promises a lot more to come, and with less than a third of the book covered, I’m looking forward to reading about how events unfold from here on out.

First impression: Brilliantly written, astonishingly real. Slow and steady pacing. Feels like your experiencing life along with the protagonist.

My recommendation: This book isn’t one of those which you’ll be able to finish within a couple of hours, and needs to be savored slowly and fully. Keep a weekend or a couple of days aside for this to fully enjoy the beauty of this book.

This book is currently tiding me over the shit storm that has taken over my life, and diving into the story makes me forget the mess that is currently my life.

Have you read this book? Do let me know what you think, and how this book made you feel.

Take care, and see you next time!

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