What is it about these kinds of books? I think I can say that I loved everything about this book – wait, probably not everything. The characters were shady and I didn’t always like them. But their shadiness is what made the book work, so I guess I can say that I liked them.
Now I want to know everything about antiques and become a dealer. I want to be an art expert and open my own gallery. This novel was so descriptive that I felt like I was in a dusty old antique shop or roaming an art gallery with Theo and his mother.
But let me back up and try to give you a brief synopsis without giving anything away. This is the story of Theo Decker, a thirteen year old New Yorker living with his beautiful mother. Theo’s mother is killed in a horrific accident in which Theo is also injured. While waiting for help, Theo connects with an old man who encourages him to find his business partner, gives him a very special ring, and tells him to take a valuable painting and keep it safe.
This painting is The Goldfinch, a small but world renowned pieced. Throughout this novel, this becomes the one tie that he is able to keep to his mother while his life spins out of control.
The characters that Tartt created are unforgettable. The fabulously rich Barbours, who take Theo in when he has no one and no way to reach his father. His father, an alcoholic, drug addicted gambler who selfishly takes Theo away from the Barbours and moves him to Vegas and subsequently neglects him. Vegas is where he meets Boris, another young boy who lost his mother to death, and lives with his father who abuses and neglects him.
Boris and Theo are trouble on wheels. They consume so much alcohol that it boggled my mind. The drugs they take set Theo up for a lifetime of addiction. I had a love/hate relationship with Boris. He seemed to genuinely care for Theo, but he certainly showed it in odd ways. But, as I said earlier, Boris is unforgettable and he is a pivotal part of Theo’s life.
Without sharing any of the harrowing details, Theo ends up back in New York and has no idea where to go. Before leaving NY, he had struck up a friendship with Hobie, the business partner of the old man who he met during the accident. Hobie is still working in the antique shop and is probably the kindest man on the face of the earth. Hobie takes him in and there he lives, learning the antiques trade while continuing to be addicted to pills.
And still, the painting is always on Theo’s mind. He is obsessed with keeping it safe; and this obsession leads him down dangerous paths and to seedy characters.
While I loved the atmosphere of this book, I did think a lot about addiction and people that have addictions. Addictions have been around for eons, but it seems particularly relevant today. The northeast is experiencing a huge heroin epidemic and New Hampshire has seen a dramatic uptick in heroin overdoses. I always welcome the opportunity to see addiction in a new light, especially when it introduces a new way of thinking about how people become addicted.
Friends, I couldn’t put this book down. It was incredible. It was life changing (dramatic? yes, but true). It swept me up into a world that I know little about and kept me there, just waiting until 8pm every day when I could visit it again. It made me want to read everything by Donna Tartt. I read the Secret History a while back and LOVED it. So now I need to read The Little Friend – which looks horrifying. And I want to find all of the books set in antique shops and devour them as well! Any recommendations??