Friday, September 12, 2014

Leaving the Nest: "the Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt

I liked the Goldfinch. Mostly. This is not my usual 100% LOVED IT recommendation because the author, Ms. Tartt, may not have made the choices for her lead character that the Recommender would have liked. "Oh Nos" were yelled at the Kindle, and much worrying on behalf of the characters was done. But who is the Recommender compared to the Pulitzer Committee??? They seemed to like these choices. It is up to you whether you want to invest hours in these characters and see what all the fuss was about.
The opening was one of the most powerful and almost visually stunning beginnings of any book, ever. 13 year old Theo and his  smart and beautiful Mom, a former model and art lover and such a warm, true presence in both Theo's life and ours, the reader's, duck into the Metropolitan Museum of Art on a rainy day to take in an exhibit of Northern Masterpieces of the Golden Age. They are too early for a meeting with Theo's school principal... so they make their way around the exhibit, taking in Rembrandt's the Anatomy Lesson and then, Carel Fabritius’s  the Goldfinch, the title painting, and one of his mother's favorites.
Theo is taken with a girl who he's seen going round the exhibit with someone who seems to be her grandfather, and when his mother dashes back for another look, while Theo heads toward the gift shop to wait for her, keeping an eye open for the girl and then KABAMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM! Theo wakes up amidst the rubble of what had been an exhibition hall.
This is SUCH a believable scene and if you've ever spent any time at the Met you can picture the mayhem and destruction.
Everyone knows that Theo ends up with the title painting through circumstances you will have to read the book to get ALL the details. Unable to find his mother, wounded and alone he makes his way home, the meeting place if they are ever separated, and waits, and waits and... the book is about Theo's loss, his scramble to find a safe place, with the family of a rich friend and then with his father, who had walked out on the family a year or so earlier. What he goes through, where he ends up and with whom is all part of this journey. My favorite character, bad influence that he might be, is Boris, a Russian teen Theo meets at his new Las Vegas high school. Boris is left alone a lot by his father, a brutal mining engineer who travels the world dragging Boris with him. These two boys on the loose get up to all kinds of things, but often hope for something as innocent as a real home-cooked meal. So, in fact, yes, I am recommending "The Goldfinch" because it's something of an epic and the characters you meet along the way will make it worth your while.