The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The Goldfinch by Donna TarttThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Published by Little, Brown on 10/22/2013
Source: Publisher
Pages: 784
Buy from IndieBound


When thirteen year-old Theo Decker narrowly escapes a terrorist attack at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that kills his mother, he takes with him a small, famous painting called The Goldfinch. As he is shuffled between the ritzy Park Avenue apartment of a family friend and his absent father’s empty Las Vegas suburb, Theo keeps The Goldfinch at his side as both a memento and a chain. Yet, when he grows up and into the practice of art restoration, Theo’s connection to the painting unintentionally thrusts him into the underbelly of the art world.

Much of The Goldfinch is a fantastic journey through American culture and lifestyle. From the wealthy, overly connected families of Manhattan living in richly wooded buildings to the hollow land of Las Vegas, separated by spaces too vast to fill with empty homes. Tartt fills each page with spotless descriptions of the people and places Theo encounters, making it simple to fall into his world and become part of his increasingly knotted life.

It is Tartt’s ability to blend vibrant descriptions and brilliantly developed characters that makes her novels so compelling. What starts as a book focused on the close relationship between Theo and his mother expands to include a wide cast of characters, each with an intricate background. Yet, in the end, none of the time spent drawing the connections feels wasted; they feel like relationships built in real life.

“When I looked at the painting I felt the same convergence on a single point: a glancing sunstruck instant that existed now and forever. Only occasionally did I notice the chain on the finch’s ankle, or think what a cruel life for a little living creature – fluttering briefly, forced always to land in the same hopeless place.”

Understandably, anecdotes on the heftiness of the text and comparisons to Tartt’s classic debut, The Secret History, are high points of discussion surrounding The Goldfinch. But both seem to distract from the novel itself, as Tartt’s third book has pushed her to a point worthy of deeper conversation. Ignore the name on the cover and the page numbers in the corners. Take in The Goldfinch for what it is: a breathtaking and engaging novel that combines the best of everything readers seek when picking up a book.


  • This sounds like an interesting read. Thanks for the review!

  • It must be hard for Tartt to publish anything after The Secret History. No matter what, it will be compared. But I’ve only heard good things about The Goldfinch so far. I was planning to get to it this week, but then discovered that I don’t actually own it yet! It’s been on my radar for so long, I just assumed it was in one of my many TBR piles!

    • Today was the US release date (not sure about Canada?), so if it’s out there…quick, quick now you can grab it!

  • I finally read Secret History this year and loved it–I can’t wait to read this one. I love the way Tartt writes.

    • I read it for the first time just a few months ago, too! This one has a different feel, but the writing is just as wonderful.

  • Jennine G.

    Going to ask the same question I did on the last review I read for this book. How many stars would you give this book and why?

    • Oh, totally 5/5. It’s tied for my best novel of the year. It’s everything I look for in a great book: incredible writing, compelling story, interesting (if not always likeable) characters. I could gush forever.

  • Kelly Massry

    Beautiful review – and I’ve only just started it so I appreciate the lack of spoilers. We will have to talk about it when I’m done!

  • Great review! I agree with the other comments that it must be difficult for Tartt to follow “The Secret History.” This one sounds interesting, but I have no idea when I would fit in such a hefty book. Unfortunately, I’m reading in five to ten minute increments these days (too much else to do!).

    • It’s definitely a big book, but it’s really readable and (dare I say) a page-turner. You very rarely feel it’s 700+ pages.

  • Ti Reed

    I read some so-so reviews of this one when it first came out, but now I am seeing some favorable reviews so I am not sure what to think, I never read The Secret History but I do own a copy. I tried to read it twice and lost interest. Not sure her writing is for me.

    • I think the narrative of this is much easier to get sucked into from the beginning than The Secret History – I actually enjoyed it quite a bit more (and I really loved TSH).

  • Oh, I was hoping you’d highlight THE GOLDFINCH today, Shannon. This is an outstanding review for a magnificent novel. I’m so glad you addressed the heft since I know that’s off-putting to some folks. I think this is Tartt’s best so far. Well worth the wait. It now reigns as my Best Novel of 2013 and this has been a good year for fiction!

    • I totally agree, it’s my favorite of her’s too…and I’m so torn between this and The Son as my favorite that I’m calling it a tie right now.

  • Emily @ As the Crowe Flies

    I so loved this book but I’ve put off reviewing it and now I don’t even know where to start–so many other folks, including you, have done such a good job that there’s no point in my contributing poorly to a great conversation!

    • I put off my review for a long time and had such a hard time turning my feelings into words. I would still love to hear your thoughts!

  • JoAnn @ Lakeside Musing

    Thanks for a great review – I can’t wait to read this one!

  • Ky @ A Fresh Tomorrow

    Lovely review! Thank you. I can’t wait to read this.

  • Words for Worms

    I’ve not read her other works so I’ll be heading into this with no expectations. It sounds like a gem!

  • Great point about Tartt’s previous works coloring current opinion. Thankfully, I read The Secret History so long ago I don’t remember anything contextual about it and was able to approach this on its own. She covers a lot of ground but it is a great story ala Mark Helprin and John Irving.

    • I just read The Secret History in August, so it was pretty fresh for me, but the books felt so different to me that it was pretty easy to avoid comparisons (other than the fantastic writing).

  • I haven’t read anything by her but this book is like alllllll over the internet!

  • Kim Ukura

    I’m right in the middle of this one, but from what I’ve read your description is spot on. I love all of the characters of the book so far, even if (at about page 300) I still have no real idea of where this is going.

  • I haven’t read any of Tartt’s works but her books seem to be highly popular. I will have to keep an eye out for her books.

  • Can’t wait to read it! And I actually still need to read The Little Friend.

  • Aghh I can’t wait to read this! I’ve never read Donna Tartt before, so this will be an extra juicy read for me :) Great review!

  • I cannot wait to read this one. I’ve purposefully put off ordering it because I know once it arrives I’ll abandon all of my other obligations to read it!

  • Sounds good! Can’t wait to read this one for myself

  • Blerg. Just accidentally posted this under the wrong review– but I just finished today and loved this book! It was beautiful, but also incredibly stressful. Everything felt so immediate. Agree with you that the character drawing diversions were engaging in themselves and contributed to the overall greatness of the novel.

    • It really did feel immediate – it feels strange to call it a page turner, but it really was. I kept telling my husband that I couldn’t do xyz because I had to know what was going to happen to Theo!

  • The Book Wheel

    I don’t often have cover-love but I do have it over this book. I’m glad the book is a good one, too :)

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