Like the fine work of art that is at the heart of this novel, Donna Tartt's masterpiece, "The Goldfinch" benefits from being viewed both from near and from afar. I rapidly plowed through the first half of the story of Theo Decker and his life after a terrorist bomb in a New York museum changed his prospects forever. I then slowed my pace of reading and took time to linger over the growing complications of his life. I followed his physical and emotional pilgrimage from living with the rich but emotionally distant guardians, and then being dragged to the outskirts of Las Vegas to subsist with his alcoholic father and the father's self-absorbed girlfriend. An unlikely best friend enters into the picture in the person of Ukrainian-born Boris. Theo's saga now enters the world of drugs, of the Las Vegas underworld, of physical abuse and neglect, and of seemingly endless peregrinations
When his father dies unexpectedly, he returns to the Greenwich Village furniture store that had served as his second home after the bombing. Pippa, a fellow victim of the bombing, had become the love of his life - although that love was returned only in the form of friendship. Pippa's guardian, Hobie, becomes a surrogate father to Theo and teaches him the trade of restoring rare antique furniture.
All the while, Theo harbors a secret - that in the confusion following the museum bombing, he has taken a rare painting of a Goldfinch, which becomes a talisman he is reluctant to let go of. The fate of that painting and its impact on all of those touched by it makes up the bulk of the plot of the second half of this novel.
On top of the intricate plot that she weaves for almost 800 pages, Ms. Tart treats with a long list of themes:
- The nature of family
- The nature of loyalty and friendship
- The role of art in private and public lives
- Growing up amid tragedy and chaos
- Living in a world of monetary privilege and emotional poverty
- The source of personal identity
- Is that such a thing as one true love?
- How does one grieve irreplaceable loss?
Part of her genius as a writer is that Ms.Tartt has created characters whose fates I was deeply interested in - even those characters that were largely unlovable. She is richly deserving of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.